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    August 2014

  • The last film project

    Old projects seem to have an odd way of circling back to haunt you. Sometimes that is economically, other times stylistically. An old project is back in mind right now which has prompted me to reconsider how, sixteen years ago I started an informal collaboration with two other photographers, using a primitive imaging technology called “film.” Almost two decades later, that project is coming to fruition, which prompted me to look back on one of if not the last projects that I worked on using film.

    08

  • July 2014

  • The Brazilian Experiment Part Two

    In early June we were in Brazil. I wrote earlier about my cultural experiences in South America’s largest country. This time I am writing about my experience with photography and photographing in Brazil.

    27

  • The Brazilian Experiment – Part One

    I spent the last few days of May and the first few days of June in Brazil. I was NOT there for the World Cup. In fact, I tried very hard to be out of that country before the start of the big event, to avoid the crowds and the connected chaos. This blog entry (and the next one) will explore my experiences in the biggest country in South America.

    04

  • May 2014

  • The best the world of photography books has to offer

    Spring brings with it the awards season, be they the Oscars or Pulitzers. Never having been nominated for (or a viable candidate for) an Oscar, I don’t follow it all that closely. Having been nominated for a Pulitzer once (by the Philadelphia Inquirer) I have a bit more of a stake in that game. The older I get, the more I wonder about the judging of many of these competitions. The recent announcement of two such annual awards left me more bewildered than usual.

    23

  • Thoughts on pricing video projects

    Regular readers know that I am making a big push into video work. I find video an interesting way to tell stories, I like the fact that multiple senses are used in that story-telling, and of course, the publication photography business is moving that direction. I have had very positive reaction to my video “Cafe,’” which shows a locally owned and operated coffee place. One such response was music to my ears and lead me to write this blog entry.

    09

  • April 2014

  • Video Hardware That Works For Me

    I recently blogged about the software that I use when making my narrative videos. Here, I will be talking about the hardware, the cameras, lenses, microphones, recorders, tripods, etc., that I use. My technology choices (whether hardware or software) are very specific to my process, my workflow and my budget. The gear I use solves my unique set of problems and nothing more. Every person making videos should ask themselves, does the gear I have (or the gear I am considering) solve my problems?

    25

  • Video software that works for me

    Digital imaging software programs, like the cameras I use, solve a given set of problems. Nothing more, nothing less. Lightroom, for example, is one of many options for software to turn RAW files from my camera into TFF or JPGs for my paying clients to use. In video, there are similarly a myriad of choices. The choices I use to edit my video/ sound and to make my time-lapse animations don’t make me taller, smarter or sexier. They solve my problem most efficiently and inexpensively.

    11

  • March 2014

  • Why would anyone do stock photography

    In the last couple weeks, my nephew and a long time student both asked me if they would be wise to start producing stock imagery to be licensed through agencies or photo libraries. Though reusing existing imagery is a part of my business, I worked pretty hard to discourage them. In the process, walked them through the question “why would anyone do stock photography.” In doing so. I realized the form of my answer would be useful to any one considering getting involved in stock photography.

    28

  • Why listen to me?

    I write a lot of blog entries, teach a lot of classes and give many presentations. Those are NOT why you should listen to me when I write something or say something. You should listen to me because you think I know what I am talking about. The question is how do you know that and by extension, why listen to me?

    14

  • February 2014

  • The hidden scandal in photojournalism’s award season

    The award season for photojournalism is upon us, like the Oscars or the Grammies. Unlike in the cases of those televised awards, the commentary will not likely focus on who attended which awards ceremony with who as their date. Nor will their be much commentary on the costumes worn, since nearly all the competitors will be dressed in black, the artist’s de rigueur clothing. If the last few year’s post-award scandals are any indication, the commentary will likely focus on digital manipulation, a topic certainly of importance. But, I am guessing the scandal-of-the-month club will again miss the real scandal in the world of photojournalism.

    28

  • Another round of morality vs greatness

    At this moment, part of our collective cultural discussion is focused once again on the question, “should the personal life of a creative person impact how we judge their work?” Over time, the moral failings of certain creative geniuses have been viewed according to a different moral code. This is not a new question by any stretch, though, in my mind, it has taken an interesting turn recently. The accusations of child molestation against Woody Allen is the most obvious case, but I am actually more interested in the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

    14

  • January 2014

  • What I hate about online camera reviews

    I rarely look at online camera reviews, unless I am trying to answer a very, very detailed question about a specific setting, button or control an a given camera. While some of the reviews can be useful, a lot of them are garbage. I am still trying to figure out who to blame, the reviewers who write the junk or the end-users who put too much faith in the same reviewers.

    31

  • What I love about handmade photographs

    I am a professional photographer making images that are used in publications and as stock photography, so that 99% of my work is used in print and/or on-line. Virtually none of my work is likely to end up as some kind of handmade photograph….. Yet, I am also a perennial student of the history of photography and a fan of all things photographic. So, I am interested in handmade photographs, even if I am not making them. Thinking about this seeming contradiction prompted me to write this blog.

    17

  • Road trip road tips

    My daughter is setting off on her semester abroad in college. She chose not to go on a college-sponsored program in some sunny and warm spot, where she might be surrounded by other American college students. Instead, she chose to enroll in a university in the chilly, damp and often gloomy U.K., to follow her passion, costume design for the theatre. Needless to say, I am very proud of her adventurous spirit.

    10

  • Clearly crossing a fuzzy line

    Last week I blogged about intellectual property in general and the theft of photographs in particular. The line between the borrowing of ideas and concepts, verses actual stealing of intellectual property can occasionally be fuzzy. But the thefts I was writing about were clearly over that line. In writing that blog, I was prompted to think about my own borrowing/appropriating/reusing.

    03

  • December 2013

  • I was wrong but they are even more wrong

    Throughout my career as a commercial photographer, I have had a fairly consistent attitude about copyright theft (and its impact on my imagery.) This was based on my world-view of the photography market and my ability to realistically respond/control that. A recent experience has shown me that my attitude was, to put it bluntly, wrong.

    31

  • A GREAT question

    A former student of mine, who has gone on to great accomplishment, wrote me with a GREAT question. My answer was be used on his blog page, but I thought it was such a good question that I am cross posting it on my page as well.

    06

  • November 2013

  • Steering Clear of the RAW Format Wars

    Most professionals (and serious photographers) working digitally, shoot RAW files. They usually do so because of the incredible degree of control and the higher image quality that comes with RAW files. Being able to correct white balance after the fact is one of the many great things about RAW files. The worst thing about RAW files, in my mind, is what I call the ongoing proprietary RAW file wars. In this blog entry, I will talk about what you need to know to stay clear of the RAW format wars.

    22

  • Lessons learned jurying a photo competition

    I recently had the privilege of jurying the work for Car Culture competition for the PhotoPlace Gallery in Vermont. It was real education, both in terms of photography and learning about the global world of cars. As a photo-educator, I look at moments like this as “teaching moments” and so I wrote this blog entry about the jurying process. (As I also wrote the “juror’s statement that will accompany the final exhibition of prints that will opens at the PhotoPlace Gallery today, November 8th.)

    08

  • October 2013

  • More Table-top Tripod Tales

    For the last two weeks of December of 2010 and most of January of 2011, I was on the road for work, fun and family reasons. I learned a few new things—and reconfirmed a few old ones—while I worked in different parts of India and Vietnam, and spent some time in Singapore. Always the teacher, I was watching my own photographing process to see if there were any lessons worth sharing. One thing struck me as a potentially interesting lesson for any serious photographer.

    25

  • Three Things Every Photographer Needs to Know About Electronic Flash

    Someone recently asked for a “super basic lesson on flash” in, as they said, “one or two steps.”  When I say flash, I mean supplementary light that is being used when documenting people, places or things as they are presented to you. I am NOT talking about studio work, where you can control the light and the subject. I am talking about when the photographer has to react to the subject and the light as they are given.

    11

  • September 2013

  • Is Gene Smith turning in his grave?

    I write this entry in mid-May in a pretty agitated state of mind.  I am posting this in September because posting it in May might have burnt a bridge for me professionally.  I also wanted to see if the anger I felt back in May subsided.  It has not and so I am burning a bridge now.

    27

  • A Pro Photographer Who Uses a MacBook Air?

    I have blogged, lectured and argued for many years that a camera is nothing more than a tool that solves a given photographer’s problem. A camera brand is not a symbol of loyalty to one kind of photography, nor is it some kind of credential for membership in some kind of “club.” The sooner each photographer starts to figure out what their particular challenges are, and which camera works for them to resolve those challenges (regardless of brand), the sooner they will start making the kind of photographs they want. Recent experience has taught me that I need to start talking the same way about the laptop computers that photographers use for digital image processing. 

    13

  • August 2013

  • Me and Jackson Browne at Tanglewood

    Ok, so there were 18,000 other people besides me and Jackson Browne on July 4th at the Shed, in Tanglewood, Massachusetts (the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.) I was not even have seated particularly close to the stage. But I have been listening to (and following) the work of the California singer-songwriter for a long time. As I listened to him play and thought about the shows I have seen over the years, I note some similarities in our careers and our creative processes.

    26

  • How do I use my time?

    A professional photographer is perceived as someone who has the pure pleasure of getting paid to snap pictures all day. Though I have been a professional for over thirty years, my working life has never been that simplistic or idyllic. So, earlier this spring I tracked EVERY thing I did for seven days. I do mean everything. For anyone considering “going pro,” a few minutes spent looking at my detailed list of one week’s labor will be real eye opener.

    16

  • Seven Questions You Should Ask Every Accomplished Photographer

    I have been taking photographs for almost four decades—mostly for money and always for myself. Over those forty years, I have slowly figured out what I wanted to ask the many photographers I encountered along the way.  I have distilled this down to a list of questions that I would ask any photographer, knowing that the answers will help any photographer.

    02

  • July 2013

  • Labeling and Defining Photographers and Photography

    As a professional photographer, I am often labeled—even pigeon-holed—using simple titles like stock photographer, documentary photographer, photo-essayist or fine-art photographer. That makes sense to me, because people want a quick way of knowing who I am as a photographer, and what kind of work I can do. A student recently asked me to explain how one photographer (me), would approach one subject, and photograph that subject different ways while wearing those four different hats.

    26

  • June 2013

  • Finland? Finland!

    I spent the first two weeks of June teaching a photo-essay class to university students in Finland. When I started the class, I was worried if it would go well. I have a hard time working with college students, since most of them don’t want to speak out in class, out of fear of “sticking out from the crowd.” Since those same students were Finnish, a notoriously shy people, it had all the makings of a train wreck. I am thrilled to say it turned out much better than I expected.

    28

  • How a liberal arts education saved my career again and again

    College graduation season is upon us and with it discussions about the importance of educating young people for the so called “jobs of the future.”  With a daughter half way through college, I have plenty to worry about in terms of her future. Yet I am here to make a last stand for a liberal arts education, the one thing that has saved my career again and again.

    07

  • May 2013

  • How fabricated images ruin my work

    Another controversy is erupting in the world of photojournalism. The image that won World Press Photo of the Year 2012 is starting to look like it was HIGHLY manipulated or an outright composite. Though I no longer work as a photojournalist, I have been following this (and other recent image manipulation) controversies closely because it directly impacts my own work.

    17

  • Photography as a second language

    With graduation season upon us, thousands of photographers-in-the making will soon be graduating from institutions across the country. The commencement speakers those students would be listening to will be loath to admit it, but getting paid to be a photographer is dying as a career option and it is clearly time for a new paradigm in the business of photography.

    10

  • March 2013

  • How to organize the unorganized

    Another query comes in and another blog post comes out…. I received an e-mail with a question that was so good that I immediately answered the writer AND told him I would turn it into a blog post. His question, to put it succinctly was “How could he organize the unorganized?” This is a question nearly every photographer working digitally may have to face.

    22

  • Connoisseur of Light in Singapore

    I am just back from Singapore, having spent three weeks there on my annual visit, teaching and photographing. Every year, I teach a couple sections of my favorite class, Light, Shadow Night and Twilight. And every year, at least half the class starts out complaining about how there is no dramatic light in Singapore. Because Singapore is almost on the equator and has pretty high humidity, there is no question the light certainly is different. This year, I paid a lot of attention to that light and especially to how I dealt with its peculiarities, for another in my blog entry in my Connoisseur of Light series.

    15

  • Rochester takes down another photojournalist

    The annual winners of the prestigious photojournalism contests are starting to be announced. Another photojournalist has got himself stuck in a controversy, largely of his own making. One upside is that this is one of those old fashioned ethical controversies where digital image manipulation had NOTHING to do with it. One downside to commenting on that is that I have indirect ties to a few of the players so I might appear to have a conflict of interest. I also thought that those ties gave me an unusual position to speak from in terms of the controversy.

    01

  • February 2013

  • How to Build Awareness for Your Work

    This week’s blog entry is a cross posting of a blog that was the result of an interview I did with photographer and marketing expert Cindy A. Stephens for the Boston Photography Focus blog, which is sponsored by the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University. The blog was posted on February 13th, 2013 and was titled: “How to Build Awareness for Your Work.” Below is the full text (the interview and the blog that was built around the interview.)

    22

  • Image abuse via Tumblr, Instagram, etc.

    A question came my way recently via email and again during a class in SIngapore. Any question that recurs that often is almost guaranteed to be worth a blog entry. After answering the question a couple times, in person and by e-mail, I knew I had a moderately intelligent answer that became this blog entry.

    08

  • Cafe Coffee Day vs Starbucks (advice to Howard Schultz)

    People who know me are aware that I don’t drink alcohol, be it wine, beer or hard liquor. I do love my coffee though. In fact, am something of a “specialty coffee” junky (as the marketing types call it.) Starbucks will soon be opening locations across India, expanding into a country and culture that I know relatively well. I am rooting for Starbucks to change the India specialty coffee market, but not for the reasons you might expect.

    01

  • January 2013

  • My Geo tagging adventure

    Geotagging of photos is one of those technological advances that vaguely impressed me, but it is also one I was sure I would never use. It all seemed so “gear-head-esque” to me. I am here today to eat my words, having just finished a project where Geo tagging was a savior (and a bit of a headache.)

    25

  • Day to day India, part two

    I am continuing my time in India, most recently hosting some old friends from Brazil as well as my daughter (and her friend.) As we have been taking them around, I have been again paying attention to the advice, warnings and cultural highlights I have shared with them. I recently blogged about some of those same things and this blog entry is ANOTHER collection of advice to anyone considering visiting India, including people in my future workshops in India.

    18

  • Day to day India

    I am about half way through a six month adventure in South Asia. I am going to be leading more photography workshops to India in the future, including ones in February and December of 2013. Both of these realities prompted me to pay attention to the day to day routines I encounter (and practice) in India, in order to share them with readers of this blog and future workshop attendees coming to India.

    11

  • Words of advice for a soon-to-be graduate (part two)

    In last week’s blog entry I parsed an e-mail from a “soon-to-be graduate” The two questions that he raised were: “…what are your favorite aspects of your work” and “…how someone could break into a field like this.” I suggested the real question to ask and answer was “…what are your least favorite aspects of your work.” I answered that question last week so now I can turn to the “…how someone could break into a field like this.”

    04

  • December 2012

  • Words of advice for a soon-to-be graduate (part one.)

    With a subject line like the title above, how could I not reply to the e-mail that recently came in from a “soon-to-be graduate” and how could I not turn my reply it into a blog? I have been sitting on this for awhile trying to figure out how to answer without turning into some cranky old man talking about the ”good old days.”

    28

  • The Constitution, Catholicism, slaves and guns

    I am going to out on a limb here and I may risk offending a few readers but the recent killing of in Connecticut of twenty seven people, mostly school children, should be offensive to all Americans. Yes, I am a liberal and I live in the North Eastern liberal-belt between Boston and Washington. On the other hand, I am a former gun owner who knows and respects plenty of gun owners.

    21

  • Seeing further into the Old and New India

    After I wrote about my experience recently about going back and forth between the “old” and “new” India, a reader asked: “Can the majority of India’s young people, who live in the old India look into the new India and imagine a place for themselves?” I kept that question in mind as I continued traveling around India and this week’s blog entry is a round about way of considering that question.

    14

  • Connoisseur of Light in Kathmandu

    I am winding up nine interesting days in Nepal, primarily in the Kathmandu valley, where I have had the pleasure of watching the light as it changes throughout each day. As I have blogged before, I like to think of myself as something of a connoisseur of light. Like a wine connoisseur, I am going to try to review the light that I encountered in Kathmandu. As much as I might like to steal some lines from the classic reviews of wines, I will avoid phrases like “fresh yet dense, exhibiting notes of, with a finish of, showing hints of” and “with lingering notes.”

    07

  • November 2012

  • Canadian copyright law joins the 20th century

    Canada recently changed its copyright law to align more closely with the rules of the World Intellectual Property Organization (or WIPO.) It is no surprise that most of the recent changes in copyright law have been driven by the explosion in digital technology and the internet. I came away a bit surprised, however, after I learned about the changes to the Canadian law.

    30

  • The Old and New India

    I write this in the midst of a road trip photographing in different parts of India.  The fact that India is changing rapidly is a truism. That I could so easily move back and forth between what I think of as the old and the new India on this trip, that was fascinating

    23

  • Poets not painters

    Why is it that so many photographers aspire to be painters (or at least want their work to look like paintings?) I never understood that since I never wanted to emulate painters. I always wanted my photographs to have the presumed veracity that we attribute to photographs. The fact that they are derived from reality is what makes them photographs. Over the decades that I have worked as a photographer (and the decades I have been hearing photographers long to be like painters) I have tried to come up with another creative persona for photographers to emulate, rather than painters.

    16

  • Information that got me thinking

    Next year will be ten years since I “went digital.” That fact prompted me to think about the next ten years. Yes, I have been using Photoshop for editing and printing my images for more than ten years. But when it comes to digital capture, I am nine years (and counting) into that technology. I recently came across information (including a nine year old quote that predicted where digital imaging was going to lead.) The great thing about that nine year old clairvoyant quote was how far away it was from talking only about technology yet how spot on it was in terms of predicting the impact of that same technology.

    09

  • Getting to the emotional core


    A friend recently attended a portfolio review event for photographers. In reporting back on her experience, two things were very apparent. First, her work was very well received, which was a “pleasant surprise” to her. While the reviewers varied in terms of exactly which images they were drawn to, there was near unanimous agreement about one problem with her presentation, which is what I am going to build this week’s blog entry around, a lesson every photographer should heed.

    02

  • October 2012

  • The magical moments in life

    As photographers, we know that some moments, ideas or experiences are simply not photographable. That does not mean we shouldn’t pause to enjoy them as life gives them to us. Nor does it mean we should not learn from them even if we do not come away with the perfect picture. I had one such experience in NYC recently.

    26

  • Why go pro

    In a recent blog, I wrote about my experience presenting my work to a group of photographers in New Delhi (India.) I was particularly interested in figuring out which concerns are unique to Indian photographers and which are universal among photographers. This week, I am thinking about a universal question I get no matter where in the world speak, which is “how do I become a professional photographer.” Pondering that question among Indians made me wonder if something about their experience, their culture and their economy might spur a uniquely Indian answer.

    19

  • Questioning the insider vs outsider perspective

    My wife and I presented our work to a group of photographers in New Delhi recently. We built our presentation around John Szarkowski’s idea that (broadly) photographs are either Mirrors and Windows (as in mirrors of the author or windows into other people, places or things.) It was of course fun. But it also got me thinking about photography, culture and a whole mix of other questions which naturally led to a blog entry.

    12

  • Egregious rights-grabbing photo contests

    There are some days I feel like I live in some parallel universe. I use neither of the two major camera brands. I watch almost no television. I take public transportation rather than owning my own car. I could go on listing the ways that I am slowly ebbing out of the mainstream. A new and insidious trend has developed among photo competitions which looks like it will push me further and further into that other, parallel universe.

    05

  • September 2012

  • Lessons from the newest Olympus Visionaries

    I have been using Olympus cameras pretty much since I “went digital” in 2003. I have formally been a member of the Olympus “Visionary” program for 18 months, although I have been working with them informally a lot longer.  Olympus recently announced an expanded roster of Visionaries. I read the list of the photographers who are newly affiliated with Olympus and like any good teacher I said to myself, is there a teachable moment in there?

    28

  • Alienating users, customers, members, readers

    This weeks blog is angry and to the point. The only question is whether or not I should “name names” in terms the parties whose arrogance and stupidity prompted this rant. The obvious reason not to name them is because I might be “burning bridges.” There is actually another, arguably more important reason not to name them. Read on to see what I am so annoyed about and what my thinking is on the question of naming names.

    21

  • Olympus OMD EM-5 over a Canon 5D

    A friend, who uses a Canon 5D, wrote to ask me if I am now using my Olympus OMD EM-5 cameras full time as my “only” cameras. Since I am doing just that I started thinking about how answering him could be turned into a blog entry. Since I am sponsored by Olympus this may appear to be obviously biased. But in my defense, I was using Olympus gear long before they started sponsoring me.  As I have blogged about before, I evaluate cameras based on how well they solve the problems that I face as a photographer.  The question is, in what situation is an Olympus OMD EM5 a better camera than a Canon 5D?

    14

  • Staying healthy in the less developed countries

    I am a month into a seven month stay in Asia, primarily India. As I am settling in to my routine here, I am repeating some practices I have learned over the years in order to protect my health. Since I have friends and family coming to India later this year (and I will also be leading a workshop in India early next year,) I thought I would share my particular approach to staying healthy in the developing world. This really is one of those examples of “your mileage may vary.”

    07

  • August 2012

  • Safety tips for working in less developed countries

    I work a lot in the developing world, partly because my wife is from India. Before we met, I was also working a lot in the nether-reaches of the globe because personal projects and paying work took me there. A friend just asked me if I had any tips he could incorporate into his working process as he heads off to Mexico. The challenge for me in writing this blog was not coming up with advice but rather with figuring out how to explain those things that I do almost automatically when I am photographing in places like India, Guatemala, Vietnam or Turkey.

    31

  • Judging the Wedding Photojournalism competition

    I was recently asked to to be one of four judges to pick the winners in the quarterly competition of the The Wedding Photojournalist Association. As I was looking at the work, I was reminded how I had judged the same competition six years ago, before I was blogging regularly. During this round of judging, I was keeping notes to share with the organization and the competitors. Naturally, I thought of turning those notes into this blog entry.

    24

  • The business side of workshop teaching

    In my last blog entry, I wrote about how interns/teaching assistants can maximize the opportunities that such professional opportunities can offer them. Since then I have received a few comments and queries based on what I wrote (including two that are at the bottom of that blog entry.) This week I want to answer another professional development question, in this case about photography workshops, which I saw posted in a forum. It was one of those rare questions that I see on line which I actually feel qualified to answer.

    17

  • A word to the wise for interns and teaching assistants

    In the general media and especially the business press there has been a lot of discussion (yelling and screaming) in the last year about internships. Most of that noise revolves around the question of paid vs. unpaid internships, which can also be thought of as job stealing (unpaid) vs job making (paid.) I have blogged a lot on internships in the past and I can argue both sides of the paid vs unpaid question. What I am blogging about this week is what interns should be doing once they have internships, paid or unpaid.

    03

  • July 2012

  • Google Plus Hangout with Jay Kinghorn

    I recently chatted with fellow Olympus Visionary photographer Jay Kinghorn for a Google + hangout where we discussed our experiences with the new Olympus OMD EM-5 camera as well as the challenges of transitioning from still to multimedia photography. We also discussed the gear we use, where we find inspiration for our work and where we are going next with our multimedia work.  It was a great conversation which I hope you will find as interesting as I found it.

    27

  • What to do with a valuable image for publication

    A question out of the blue came from a reader recently. It prompted me to start thinking about some important “what-ifs,” in terms of publication photography. Like many people who write me with questions, he had a less than fully developed question but he also knew that a fully developed answer could help him in the future.

    20

  • The most difficult thing about making a good photograph

    I recently finished a great class on the “Photographic Tools for Travel Photography” at the International Center of Photography in New York City. I teach all my classes as a building process, where I pile ever growing amounts of information, responsibility and autonomy on the students as the workshop goes on. The end of that process, which is also the end of the class, is when I circle back through all the lessons of the class, to explore exactly what is the most difficult thing about making a good photograph.

    13

  • June 2012

  • Dish TV vs the Networks and our photographic future

    Am I the only creative content producer relishing the fight between Dish Network and the major broadcast TV networks? While I like a good legal slug-fest between Goliaths as much as the next person, I also have a real stake in the outcome. The second-largest satellite TV provider in the United States, Dish has unleashed Auto Hop, a feature allowing subscribers to automatically ad-skip through broadcast television shows. Three of the four major networks have responded with lawsuits to stop what they fear as the ultimate disruptive technology, which would clearly devastate their business model.

    29

  • Connoisseur of Light (Part 1)

    Every discussion about photography sooner or later includes the maxim about the fundamental importance of light. In my favorite workshop, the one I call Light, Shadow, Night and Twilight, students learn how I see and utilize the found light (as vs. controlled or studio light.) In the process of promoting that same workshop, I have repeatedly been called a master of light and shadow. While I appreciate the complement, having just spent a week in Finland, I am thinking I would prefer to maybe call myself a connoisseur of light.

    22

  • If I were starting out now

    I am an old photographer, (duh!) That means I have been taking pictures seriously for a very long time (forty years to be exact in 2012.) It also suggests I have some kind of wisdom to offer young photographers, which may or may not be true. Arguably, the most common question I get from young photographers is what would I do if I were starting out in today’s photography market. My answer usually starts with “I don’t know” and ends with “I’m glad I am not.” Since neither of those are a real answers, I owe a real answer to readers (and to a friend who asked me that same question recently.)

    15

  • May 2012

  • Good storytelling is good storytelling

    Last week I wrote about how I was going to stop blogging on a fixed schedule. That still holds true, but since writing that, I had one of those “aha” moments where I was prompted to think about something in great depth. All that thought and pondering shouldn’t go to waste and so here it is as a blog entry.

    11

  • The end of the world as we know it

    I have been blogging since August of 2008, initially twice a week and more recently once a week. I have learned a lot of different things in that process. I know myself much better as person, as a writer and as a photographer. I know the blogosphere much better and I know blogging itself much, much better. Today’s blog will explore some of the things that I have learned over the last 45 months as a “blogger.”

    04

  • April 2012

  • A blessing and a curse

    I have been putting a lot of time lately into my project photographing inside homes after the foreclosure and before the houses are cleaned up and resold. That moment is when I see what I think of the “ghosts” of the people who used to live in those homes. The work has been very well received lately, which got me wondering why that is. The educator in me (and the photographer in me) both want to understand why the images seem to work well for others. Every photographer has an idea about what his or her work should do for the viewer of the work, but so what. When a body of work succeeds in both the photographer’s mind and the viewer’s eye that’s something worth thinking about.

    27

  • Lightroom 2 Lightroom 4

    I was thinking about old software and new software when a friend asked me about the new features of Lightroom 4. Since I am using Lightroom 2, I couldn’t say much. Then the same friend wrote me: “I recall being with you when you first loaded Lightroom on your laptop. Several of us were already using it and you finally decided it was better than what you were using.” While that statement is true on one level, it got me thinking about Lightroom, how I use that software and the general tendency in photography to buy the latest upgrade/lens/ etc.

    20

  • Photography books with authorship

    Last week I blogged about a couple of my favorite photography books, neither of which have any pictures. This week I am thinking about photography books that actually have pictures in them. What got me thinking about these books is how the authors each bring something special to their projects. I am not writing about the books because the photographers are my friends (though some are.) I am writing about them because each of the photographers in question has done one or more things to make their books interesting and distinctive.

    13

  • Photography book without pictures

    I just finished a great book on photography. It had no pictures. It didn’t have a whole lot of instruction or technology either. I will be the first to admit that I had my doubts about it when I picked it up, but I thought I’d give it a try. I should have known better, since the publisher also produced one of my favorite photography books. After reading it, I had a new perspective on photography and I also realized it was the kind of book I wish I had written. What book was it? Read on!

    06

  • March 2012

  • Feedback through instant editing

    Last week I blogged about what I now call “instant editing.” The idea was to share the top forty or sixty images from one day’s shoot with about ten peers right at the end of the day’s photographing in order to get some input on how to improve when photographing the next day. Last week, I talked about how I started this process (and why I hope to use it more in the future.) This week I want to share some of the comments that I received from my “reviewers.” What I found so interesting was not just what they said about the work, but how they said it. Their thinking is so compelling that I wanted to share it in order to possibly help others edit sets of images in the future.

    30

  • The idea behind instant editing

    When I was younger, I envisioned the end of the business as a nightmarish world where editors would seem to be working inside my head, through some futuristic technology, telling me where to stand and when to push the button. My great fear was having the imaginary editor see what I was looking at through my camera, telling me (through a seemingly permanent earpiece) what to include or exclude and when to click. When that day arrived, I said that I was sure I would quit the business. The onslaught of live television broadcasting, as it overwhelmed the still image, only exacerbated my worst fear. At first I thought digital imaging would be the technology to drive the last nails into the coffin. A recent informal experiment proved that, at least for me, the future is not so grim and I actually have digital imaging to thank for a bit of new optimism.

    23

  • Two dogs

    I was on the other end of the camera recently, for the first time in a long, long time and it was a fascinating experience.  Being “on camera” is not something I do very often, so I was bit wary. Although the resulting images looked good (at least to me,) the entire process from start to finish was as interesting as the final result. A photographer being photographed! If that’s not the start of a good blog entry, I am not much of a blogger.

    16

  • Learning to podcast the easy way or the hard way

    An email came to me awhile back that was succinct and to the point. I filed it away in the pile where I keep things that I need to “think about it for a while before blogging about them.” It got me thinking about how I had moved from complete ignorance to a level of accomplishment in one area of modern communication in a short period of time. The teacher in me kicked in and I started wondering if I could really take someone else down the path that I took from beginner to practitioner. I am not 100% sure I can, but this is my best effort.

    09

  • Singapore suggests

    In January I spent three weeks in Asia, mostly in Singapore. As always it was a stimulating trip on many levels. The food was great, the company equally good and the workshops were a blast. I have been trying to put a bit of distance between myself and that experience. I want to figure out which parts were really important and blog-worthy (and which parts were fun when they happened but don’t have much long term meaning.) I do this because unlike some bloggers, if I write about something to soon after it happens, I usually emphasize the wrong thing.

    02

  • February 2012

  • My data is backed up securely What about yours

    There is a question that I am asked in most every class that I teach and during almost every presentation that I give. Ironically it is not about my cameras, though they come up often. Nor is it about my lenses, my table-top tripod or my electronic flash. The fact is that almost every photographer I encounter wants to talk about “it.” Yet few photographers have a clear answer to the question, which tells me that “it” is one of the most important (and unresolved) questions for today’s digital photographer.

    24

  • Some good questions

    A high school photography teacher wrote me recently with some questions. As part of her ongoing credentialing for teaching photography, she needed to “…gather information/advice from those in professional photography community.” She went on to ask me a series of great questions from her students drawing on having asked them “What questions they would ask a professional if they could.”

    17

  • Art and commerce of selecting a workshop teacher

    (Disclaimer, I am a workshop teacher as well as a veteran professional photographer)
    I am a professional photographer. I am VERY proud of the fact that I make my living through my photography. I have been lucky in that most people who pay to use my work appreciate the skills it took me decades to master. I have, over time, expanded my repertoire to include workshop teaching. Over a period of years I have been working to master and excel in  the process of helping others get better at their photography. As I have been doing this, I have been reminded again and again, that teaching is like any other skill: It involves practice and takes decades to fully master.  Also, much like publication photography itself, the world of photography workshops is being flooded with people who have little or no skill as educators.

    10

  • The future of photography is women

    Among the classes that I taught while I was recently in Singapore, at the behest of Objectifs – Centre for Photography and Filmmaking, was a class on street photography. At the first meeting, I scanned the room like I always do. I saw Singaporeans of all ethnicities, a few Europeans and two people from India. What I did not see among the many eager faces were any men. The class went really well with only women and it set me to thinking about how, I could argue, the future of photography is women.

    03

  • January 2012

  • Dumping the darkroom?

    A friend wrote me recently with something of an existential question for a photographer. I knew that answering it was going to be tough, for her and for me. Whichever direction I suggested she go (and whichever direction she chose to proceed) was bound to impact the lives of many photographers for years to come. Like any good existential question, half the fun was simply working through the problem. Knowing that no certain answer was possible (or preferable,) made the process both interesting and frustrating.

    27

  • Back to the future with prime lenses

    What goes around comes around. There is nothing new under the sun. Everything old is new again. I have been rolling those cliché’s around in my head as I have been using a couple new lenses. The most interesting part of the process is how these lenses have taken me far back to my beginnings in photography. Yes, I use the latest in digital imaging gear, but I occasionally go back into the history of the medium to find technologies that make images look the way I want. The funniest part of putting this blog together was learning how a technology that I grew up with as a photographer has been relegated, by many photographers, to the status of a historical anomaly.

    20

  • the old fashioned way….

    I am well aware that the media world as we know it is moving to the web and that social media is fast becoming THE media channel of choice. Something popped in my e-mail box recently from the web, via a social media channel that nearly knocked me out of my chair. It was not some incredible image or fancy animation, though I see plenty of those on the web these days. It was actually a text-based promotion and what it said left me dumbfounded. It was a reminder that words and especially the message are more important than the delivery channel.

    13

  • Privatize it all, let God sort it out

    Sometimes, when I am blogging, I think that the art is connecting things that initially seem disconnected and pondering them until I can organize disparate threads into a good blog entry. That exact process started when I was recently in Los Angeles for a few days at the start of a long road trip. I kept coming face-to-face with reminders of the ways that privatization is ruining much of our society. Even worse is the thought that as bad as these changes are for someone like me in the middle class, they are much worse for the working poor across this country. They are the people who will really lose when no one (other than God) sorts out the privatization mess we are making.

    06

  • December 2011

  • About ongoing, on-line critique groups

    The photography world is often dominated by the rage for the latest camera, software or accessory. We all know that (and I am as guilty as the next person in terms of talking those up.) Long after the latest/greatest photo “toy” has been forgotten, there is one timeless thing that will make every one of us a better photographer, which is feedback. There are many ways to give and get that all-important feedback, much of which I have blogged about in the past. In my experience, one of the very best ways to get that is through an ongoing, on-line critique group.

    30

  • Why I teach workshops on stock photography

    An old friend, who runs a stock photo agency, saw that I will soon be teaching a class in stock photography near him. He wrote me a friendly but slightly incredulous note, saying “….a workshop on stock photography? Yesterday Pickerell’s advice was to ‘Find another profession.’ “ My reply was to say I am not likely to follow the advice of Jim Pickerell, arguably the longest running writer/commentator on the business of stock photography. But I did want to answer my friend in more depth. So I thought more about his question, why teach a workshop on stock photography?

    23

  • Adapt or die

    Recently, while I was working on a project, I had a bit of a surprise. In that project, Foreclosed Dreams, I am exploring the ongoing foreclosure crisis by photographing inside houses as soon as possible after the actual foreclosure and before they are cleaned up.   That is when I can see and photograph what I think of as the “ghosts” of the families that used to be there.  During a recent shoot, I had two surprises that got me thinking about how I work as a photographer. One lesson came out of all of that, adapt or die.

    16

  • The all important copyright registration process

    The NPPA (National Press Photographers Association) has a great tag line they used to use with many of their promotions that goes “Our Images Are Our Legacy.” I believe that same idea applies to all kinds of photographers, not just photojournalists belonging to the NPPA. (I would argue that this idea is true for any creative practitioner who wants their work to be their legacy.)

    09

  • What flash cards you use…

    An advertising campaign that is currently running in many magazines is built around the tag line, “who insures you does not matter, until it does.” One ad shows a golfer on a course, calculating his putt, and in the background is an approaching alligator. The images are not that memorable and the campaign fails (in my eyes) because I simply cannot remember which insurance company is being promoted through the ads. The thing that is the most memorable is that tag line, which prompted me to think about how that might apply in photography. That led me to think about flash cards of all things.

    02

  • November 2011

  • An evening with Jackson Browne

    I attended a Jackson Browne concert in Hanford, California last weekend. I have loved his music since I was introduced to it in high school. I have followed his career and music over the years, attending concerts along the way, when I could afford it and when our paths crossed. The Hanford concert was in a wonderful small venue (and reasonably priced,) so I spent what was billed as “an evening with Jackson Browne.” Throughout the concert (and for days afterward,) I was thinking about my photography, his music and why I felt such an affinity for his work.

    25

  • Keeping my momentum

    As a self-employed editorial photographer, I tend to work in isolation. As a self-directed stock photographer with less and less assignment work, I need to keep motivated so I can move my work and career forward. One of the real joys of blogging and workshop teaching is that both of those do an excellent job of counterbalancing that isolation and keeping me motivated. I never really thought about this situation in those terms (or really much at all,) until someone wrote me with a question about isolation and momentum.

    17

  • Solving the problem of camera straps

    Whenever I buy (or advise a photographer about) a piece of gear, I always use the same criteria. I simply ask, “Does it solve the problem?” I used to only apply that test to cameras or lenses. Increasingly, I use it when considering other camera related gear such as tripods and flash cards. I have been using it often recently because entrepreneurs are increasingly coming up with novel solutions to problems that I once thought were not “solvable.” A classic example of this is camera straps.

    11

  • Lessons learned judging a photo contest

    I spent time in early October judging the annual Pollux Awards, which are given out by the Worldwide Photography Gala Awards. The juror’s statement, which I wrote after the judging, was recently posted along with the winning work. The whole process was an education for me. I thought that turning my experience into a blog entry would enable me to take others on the same educational journey that I recently undertook.

    04

  • October 2011

  • Which camera do you use and why?

    I just finished up a great road trip to California where I was photographing and teaching. Throughout the trip I was using my Olympus PEN cameras constantly. The reaction that my cameras drew was fascinating. Many of the students were very interested in what I was using because of the size of the cameras and lenses. Half the pros I encountered smirked at my “tiny” cameras. The other half wanted to know more. Nearly everyone asked the same question, which went something like “which camera do you use and why?”

    28

  • Where do you learn to be a photographer (part three of three)

    For the last two weeks I have been blogging about the important question of where do you learn how to be a photographer? To date, I have explored my take on the future of commercial photography, called into the question the value of formal schooling and offered some on-line resources that can serve as well as school, if not better (and they are much cheaper.) I want to deconstruct a few of those same resources to suggest how to find value in reading them.

    21

  • Where do you learn to be a photographer (part two of three)

    In last week’s blog entry I started to explore the question, where do you learn how to be a photographer? Much of that entry was speculating on what the business of photography will be like in the future. I also called into the question the benefit of formal study of photography, at least for those who want to be commercial photographers.

    14

  • Where do you learn to be a photographer (part one of three)

    Eager young photographers write me often, telling me about what they want to do as photographers and asking for my help. Part of me says to tell them to “…run as fast as you can, away, away from this ever more crowded field.“ Another part of me says, wait, the business continues and is (in some way) growing, doubly so, with the movement of most communications media to the web, which is an ever more image-driven media. So there will be photographers in the future, though not the same kind of photographers as there used to be. I recently blogged about the best college for photographers being the one where you learn how to “think,” not just take pictures. That begs the question, where do you learn how to be a photographer?

    07

  • September 2011

  • The failure of photography in tragedies beyond 9/11

    For the last two weeks, I have been blogging about photography and the events of 9/11. First, I explored how the attacks have become something of a milestone marking major changes in the business and culture of photography. Then I pondered how those same events helped me understand my own process as a photographer. This week, I am considering what photography fails to do when it comes to tragedies, like 9/11.

    30

  • What 9/11 did NOT change in my photography

    Last week I blogged about how the terrible events of 9/11/01 changed photography. (Or maybe more accurately, how the photography that came out of that day highlighted the changes in the culture of photography that were just picking up speed at that moment.) That essay was written from the perspective of a blogger first and a photographer second. This week I approach the same topic the other way, as a photographer first and a blogger second.

    23

  • 9/11 changed the world (of photography)

    The tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 has come and gone. I listened to, watched and read many of reports on the commemorations. I was equally interested to read the many commentaries exploring the long-term impact of those horrible events on our nation and on the world. Throughout that process, I never read a commentary that explored the way that 9/11 has impacted the world of photography. With that in mind, this week I will explore my reaction to the events of 9/11 as a blogger/photographer.

    16

  • Seminar, workshop or class?

    I admit it! I am obsessed about photography education. Of course I am. I teach workshops around the world. My wife is a university professor teaching photography. I run two web sites focused on photography education. I write about photography education on this site (and on other web sites.) I do all of this because as a photographer, I grow as I teach. The more I teach, the more I grow. And I love to grow as a photographer. So, a recent question about education got me thinking even MORE photography education.

    09

  • Who really knows what they are talking about

    As a blogger, I am competing, (in theory) with millions of other bloggers for your attention. In my mind, the hardest part of the job is coming up with things to write about that others have not already explored. As of late, I have discovered that the best blog entries arise out of the intersection of my personal interests, input from others and recent events in my life. This week’s blog came out of that same place. It explores the question of how do we know who really knows what they are talking about?

    02

  • August 2011

  • I have seen the future and….

    I have a soft spot for science fiction, particularly the futuristic work found in movies like Blade Runner, Minority Report, 2001 A Space Odyssey and of course, Star Trek. I am less of a fan of movies like Alien or Independence Day, which strike me more as simple action movies set in the future. Having recently seen a few sci-fi movies has led me to ponder “the future.” I have also seen a couple of new photographic technologies that got me thinking about where our beloved medium is going. What I saw left me not altogether happy. To steal a line form the cartoon character Pogo “I have seen the future and the future is us.”

    26

  • The best college for photographers

    My daughter is about to start her fresh-man (fresh-person?) orientation at college. This “momentous” occasion prompted me to think about college in general, as well as my own experience in college. Finally that led me to this blog entry, considering which is the “best” college for photographers.

    19

  • The white balance from he..

    Photographers of a certain age, like me, have been struggling with what we now know as white balance for as long as we have been making color photographs. Like so many technological changes, the control over white balance that comes with digital imaging is a blessing and occasionally a curse. I was reminded of this when I tried to answer a question posed to me recently about that very complex issue.

    12

  • To put differences aside for the common good

    With summer vacation here (and all of Rhode Island’s many summer distractions calling me,) I worried that I might not have the patience to write something in depth. Knowing that most readers are probably equally distracted, I decided to write about something a bit smaller. In this case, I want to explore how the national headlines and my recent personal experience teach the same important same lesson, but only one of the two incidents came to any kind of really positive resolution.

    05

  • July 2011

  • Buying lenses for travel photography

    A student-to-be wrote me question about what to bring to a class later this year. His question was specific to the class I am teaching but also broad enough that I suspect I will be revisiting the same topic in the future. So I figured I would kill two birds with one stone and make a blog entry out of the answer to his wise question.

    29

  • Nostalgia, photography and pablum

    Because it is summer, my recent blog entries have been shorter (and I am hoping sweeter.) This week I am writing something equally short but maybe not so sweet. I will be exploring a weird convergence of marketing, nostalgia and photography that I recently came across. What I read got me pretty agitated, but I wanted to “sit on my anger” for a few weeks, to see if my initial reaction was still appropriate. Now I can say that what I thought back when I first saw the offending passage is what I still think, a few weeks later.

    22

  • Lazy Artists Rip-Off

    In last week’s blog, I started with an quote attributed to Picasso, who is supposed to have said: “Good Artists Borrow, Great Artists Steal.” I explored the importance of inspiration and how most artwork is built on work that precedes it. The stealing that Picasso referred to, in my opinion, was stealing the core idea behind a great piece of art but making new and uniquely authored work building on that “stolen” core. That essence is the only thing that should be “stolen” from other artists. A recent on-line controversy left me thinking that a new line needs to be added to Picasso’s quote, which would be something like “Lazy Artists Rip-Off.”

    15

  • Good Artists Borrow, Great Artists Steal, Lazy Artists Rip-Off

    That idea has been floating around in my thinking in one form or another for as long as I have been a photographer. Studying the history of photography, or the history of any creative medium really, is a pretty explicit way of embracing that idea. I have been following a controversy on line involving a photographer I know, copyright rules that I value, an on-line lynch mob that prompted me to wince and the larger question of influences, appropriation and finally flat-out theft.

    08

  • Computers for workshops

    The workshop I finished last week in Italy got me thinking about lap top computers, digital imaging and photography workshops. When I started teaching photography workshops, almost twenty years ago, arguably the biggest concern was how to get film processed in a timely manner, so we could look at the work the students were doing. Early on, we worked with black and white negative film and then with color transparencies, each media having strengths and weaknesses. Today, the digital revolution has eliminated that set of problems. On the other hand, it has opened up a whole other can of worms when it comes to computers digital imaging and photography workshops.

    01

  • June 2011

  • Selling prints, for love or money

    I am just winding up a workshop in Italy, which was great fun (and equally great food.) A question that came up in this workshop, as it does in many, (and came in this week from a former student via e-mail) got me to thinking about selling photographs as fine art. The former student who raised the question is part of one of the ongoing critique groups that I lead, where I meet (on-line) with a few photographers every couple months to do a group critique of their ongoing projects. The question spurred an great dialogue within that group, which in turn spurred this blog entry. As I was laying out my thinking for the blog piece, I was thinking of titling it simply, the good, the bad and the ugly.

    24

  • The myth of greedy photographers

    In May, I wrote a blog entry that was about politics, had little to do with photography and argued against “the myth of over-burdensome regulation.” Today, I am going to follow up on that blog entry. I will be returning to politics to explore a bit of American history where the federal government did go too far, in my opinion and photography was at the core of the situation.

    17

  • Crowdfunding for better or worse

    Some of what shows up in my e-mail box makes me feel like I am getting old fast (or at least becoming old-school in my thinking.) A couple recent e-mails triggered this reaction again, but something in me pushed back and made me say to myself, “…maybe I am right and the change swirling around me is wrong.” Since this whole internal tug-of-war involved photography, it seemed like a natural topic for a blog entry.

    10

  • Motion pictures vs stills

    Like most people, I enjoy motion pictures (or movies.) Although I took a few classes in college on film history and film theory, I do not really know much about the media, other than what I like. Having said that, I have long had one eye on the movie business for a few reasons. First, there is a lot more money and acclaim for filmmakers as compared to still photographers. Secondly, I knew the explosion in digital imaging was going to inevitably change the movie industry, just like it changed the still image business. Recent events set me to thinking about all of this change and prompted me to try to hammer out a blog entry about movies vs. stills, from my purely personal perspective.

    03

  • May 2011

  • Memory and photographs in the “twice promised” land

    I am winding up my time in Israel and the West Bank. Having spent time in both places, I can safely say I am more confused then ever. So much so, that I will not be blogging about the politics of the conflict. I am not sure I can add anything to what is already a very heated and complex debate. I will be blogging this week about the one topic that I can speak about comfortably, photography. I want to think out loud about the interesting role that images and memory play for both “sides” here. My thinking is derived from my recent experiences here, my years working here as a photojournalist and my larger interest in the history of photography.

    27

  • Senses, memory (and photography)

    I am about half way through a two-week trip to Israel. I am here photographing (duh,) touring, visiting and helping Annu with her project photographing three generations of women (in this case Israelis.) Because I have spent so much time here (living full-time and visiting for long stretches,) I sort of know the place. On the other hand I have not been here in eleven years, so many things have changed. As I am walking around, photographing, things seem vaguely familiar yet… Since arriving, I have tried hard to analyze my reaction to being here again. Photography is clearly at the core of my memories of this place, but so are other senses.

    20

  • What makes a good photo editor

    In late April, I had the honor of presenting my work to undergraduate and graduate students in the photojournalism program at the University of Texas at Austin. This PJ program is highly regarded and has produced some great photographers over the years. The last thing I did during my brief time there was an open portfolio review, primarily looking at the work of graduate students. Throughout my time in Austin (and during that portfolio review in particular) the question was repeatedly raised, “how do you make a living in this incredibly difficult photojournalism market?” Near the end, one student said something about where he might go in the future with his photography and I was all but dumbstruck by his brilliance (and my inability to respond.)

    13

  • The myth of over burdensome regulation

    I follow certain topics on the web, and in the “old” media very closely, including, of course, my passion and profession, photography. I also closely follow issues such as politics, news from India, the foreclosure crisis, the media itself (old and new) as well as events in the Middle East, etc.  All of that is not terribly unusual. But what is extraordinary to me is the one subject that I follow the most closely, after the obvious topics.  I recently realized that, in this day of partisan divides my perspective on this one issue mirrors my perspective on government in general.   (Spoiler alert here! I am about to get political.)

    06

  • April 2011

  • Witnesses by choice

    Last week, the news of the deaths of two photojournalists, Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros raced around the world of photojournalism (and the larger media world.) I read the various pieces and mostly I was saddened by the loss. I grieve for their families, for our profession and for our world as a whole. During a presentation I gave Thursday night, I paused and asked the audience to remember the two photographers. As I was reading the various articles on their deaths, one thing caught my attention and it may be nitpicking but I think it is important. The two are frequently described as having died “in the line of duty.” They were not under any obligation to be there. It was not part of any military term or enlistment they had made. They were there by choice. That in no way negates what they were doing, or the tragedy of their deaths, but they put themselves in harm’s way by choice.

    29

  • Blazing a new path in your photography education

    For me, blogging, like life, is most interesting when seemingly disparate things come together in unusual and thought provoking ways. A recent series of events got me thinking about photography workshops in particular and photography education in general. Since I studied the history of photography, work as a photographer, and teach a fair number of workshops, this is not new territory for me. What is new is where my thinking ended up at the end of the mental twists and turns that I recently went through.

    22

  • First impressions are lasting impressions with web sites

    I look at a lot of photographer’s websites. Most times I am looking to learn who they are and what kind of photography they do. In some cases, I may be checking them out in case they are under consideration for a position as a reviewer in our on-line photo-critiquing system, Photo Synesi http://photosynesi.com/ Other times, they may simply be professional peers (or competitors.) In still other cases, I am looking because I am told they are the latest “hot” photographer and I am looking at their site to figure out why they are defined as so “hot” (and I am especially curious how they got where they did in their careers.) In all cases, I use roughly the same strategy in looking at photographer’s sites. A photographer recently asked me to look at his site, and I decided to review his site using the same system I use in looking at every photographer’s site.

    15

  • Failure is a requirement

    I have been thinking about failure recently. What first comes to my mind when I say that word is the phrase, “failure is not an option.” NASA engineers made that line famous during the nearly disastrous Apollo 13 space flight. The phrase and its very focused message have long since entered our collective body of speech. The older I get, the more I think that at least for creative people, like photographers, failure is all but a requirement. For me this dichotomy is doubly interesting since, had I not become a photographer, I would have probably become an engineer of some sort.

    08

  • What’s in a name

    I am in California, working on my project “Foreclosed Dreams,” where I have been photographing inside foreclosed houses. I am also teaching a series of classes. I am spending a lot of time on my new MacBook Air, running my photography business from the road. In between all this, I am working on building Photo Synesi ( http://photosynesi.com ), a new on-line critiquing system that connects serious photographers around the world. Through Photo Synesi, we help aspiring photographers get better through personalized feedback of their work. The title of one of the projects that was recently reviewed caught my eye because it perfectly described what we try to do.

    01

  • March 2011

  • In the eye of the beholder

    As photographers we all make images, (duh.) By making and sharing those images, we also shape how others perceive the subjects that we photograph. I was thinking about this over the last few months as I was traveling in the U.S.A and around Asia, (where I am writing from.) While I was in New York City, particularly Times Square, I crystallized my ideas into this blog entry. I am starting to understand (and worry about) the ongoing cycle of how images become part of our perception, which further shapes the next imagery, which shapes the subsequent perception.

    25

  • Remakes in film and photography

    Having studied history of photography in college, I am perfectly comfortable with the idea that many (most) of my photographs, to this day, are shaped, consciously or unconsciously, by the work of photographers I have previously seen. On the other hand, photographers rarely, if ever, do conscious remakes of the work of the predecessors, unlike musicians who are known for “covering” or performing the work of their predecessors. Filmmakers are perfectly comfortable doing remakes. The new movie, True Grit, is just the latest example of artists revisiting a story and reinterpreting that in their own way. I recently encountered a couple prize-winning photo projects that were remakes of sorts, which resonated very strongly with a project I did twenty-eight years ago.

    18

  • Surviving and Thriving as a Professional Photographer

    In last week’s blog explored how I came understand and even embrace a couple guiding ideas about making a living as a photographer. The first of those is to accept (or even ideally embrace) the fact that what I do as a professional photographer exists within an ever changing, constantly shifting framework. Change is a constant and so I simply have to accept that. The second insight is that, for me, institutional affiliations, external validations of my skills and conventional certifications are not that much use in my own photography. That works for me. It may not be the same for other. With those two ideas in mind, this week I will offer some thinking points for any professional photographer (or professional photographer in the making) who is looking at the current business of photography and asking themselves, where can I fit in?

    11

  • Should I become a Certified Professional Photographer

    I have worked in and around photography almost my entire working life. I took a few short detours away from my beloved medium, but those went nowhere fast. A recent email prompted me to look back over my career for insights to share with the photographer who wrote me. Looking back, I noted two important trends, lessons I wish I knew way back when I was starting out, but I did not. I am heartened by the thought that at least I can explore and explain those ideas now, for others to learn from.

    04

  • February 2011

  • Moral hazard and photography

    In another life, I think I would have been an economist. I have already blogged about why I say that and what fascinates me about economics. With that in mind, I have been thinking a lot about one of my favorite economics terms, moral hazard. I recently pondered how it applies to two of my favorite pursuits, photography and motorcycle riding.

    25

  • Noticing gestures

    It may be because of the extreme winter cold in New England that has been keeping me inside. Or it may be the time spent unpacking our stuff in the new house we recently bought. Or it may be the long hours at the computer catching up after six weeks on the road. Whatever the reason, I keep thinking back to the warm days and interesting experiences I had in December and January while traveling in Asia. Gestures, of all strange things, keep coming to mind when I think about that trip.

    18

  • Rich is better

    The line, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better,” has been credited to actress Mae West, comedians Joe E. Lewis and Fanny Brice as well as entertainer Sophie Tucker (and many others.) My own life experience backs this up. A few recent experiences do that even more so.

    11

  • Books, ideas, frameworks

    My recent road trip left me with a lot of time for thinking about, among other things, books. In the “old” days, which were not that long ago, such a trip would mean buying / reading a few books over the six weeks I was on the road. It also meant planning how to get the books while traveling, how to carry them and where to leave them (or who to give them to) when I was finished, This trip, that whole routine was gone.

    04

  • January 2011

  • Lessons from six weeks on the road

    Six weeks on the road, ping-ponging between the first and third world left me with lots of time to think. As I moved between Singapore, being the former and India/Vietnam, being the latter, I kept a running notepad of lessons I “learned” this trip. Learned is relative. What really happened was that during one long, twelve hour car ride, I had the opportunity and inclination to write down and flush out some important lessons I had learned in bits and pieces during hundreds of previous journeys to a myriad of places.

    27

  • Ode to sunlight

    I had one of those “aha” moments recently. Like so many of those, the actual moment was mere confirmation of something I already knew, but had never (or rarely) articulated. The more I reflect on it, the more I appreciate the insight I just had. Also, the more I ponder what I realized, the more I understand that even at the ripe “old” age of 53, I still have plenty of things left to learn and understand.

    21

  • Sharing photo essay ideas

    I just finished teaching a series of photography workshops in Asia, including my favorite photo-essay class. In that workshop, students initially practice the skills required for a long-term photo-essay AND then they start working on the project of their choosing. I show them how the hardest part of a good essay is defining the project. I was reminded in Singapore how a good workshop group, one that is willing to share ideas, can make that process of defining a project much easier. Just as this was happening, I was also having an e-mail exchange with an American photographer, who seemed concerned about keeping his project idea to himself. I am still trying to figure out if the diverging thinking on sharing ideas was an aberration, or if it tells us something about the difference between Singaporean and American mindsets.

    13

  • Thinking about photography’s “constants”

    I read a number of on-line forums every day. My morning reading, which once was largely a leisurely enjoyment of the New York Times, now entails scanning the eight forums I read daily to see what items of interest are percolating through the world of photography. I rarely post on most forums, since I am not sure I have much to offer that hasn’t already been said. I recently posted on a forum and the thread that resulted taught me a lot about the state of contemporary professional photography.

    07

  • December 2010

  • Does the photography world need more ‘pros’

    I tell my students, especially those who ask me questions outside of the classroom setting, that there are group questions and there are individual questions. The former being something that when answered in front of the whole class will benefit the entire group, especially those students who will learn from my answer, even if they have yet to articulate the question. The latter usually are more individual queries and are often best answered one-on-one. They are more typically “what is the meaning of life” kind of questions. One of the students in my photo-essay class in Singapore recently asked me what seemed like an “individual” question. As soon as I started thinking about (and writing to answer her, I realized it was really a group question (and this blog is the overdue group answer.)

    31

  • Singapore musings

    I just finished up a series of workshops in Singapore.  Throughout the ten days I was there, I jotted down notes, which were little musings that popped into my head based on things that caught my attention.  As I was leaving Singapore (for Vietnam,) the various notations reached a kind of a critical mass and so I am sitting down during my first few days in Ho Chi Minh City and writing this blog entry.

    24

  • What is it about middle gray?

    I am teaching a series of workshops in Singapore. I had an “aha” moment during one of my recent classes. Purely by accident, I did what a good teacher is supposed to do. I took something that I knew well and I reconfigured that same information into a new format. The new approach made it so people who did not know the information could easily comprehend it. The expressions of “oh” and “aha” from my students showed me that I was on to something pretty useful for most photographers.

    17

  • They plan on eating our lunch

    Normally, I try really hard to stay away from political commentary in this blog. Partly out of fear of offending readers of divergent political views. Mostly though, I am afraid that I have nothing else to add of any value to the discussion of the day. This week was one of those rare times where the fates came together and I feel perfectly comfortable writing what looks like, on first glance, a politically focused blog entry. The astute reader will follow this piece to its conclusion to see how it relates to many of the ongoing themes I blog about (probably too often.)

    11

  • A fifth photographer’s problem

    I have written extensively about what I describe as the four “photographer’s problems” (or questions.) These are issues that every serious photographer should consider regularly. I mention these in classes and during presentations to get photographers thinking about photography’s important issues, rather than obsessing about the gear they use. I am surprised to say that I am thinking of adding a fifth question, but I am not 100% sure. Writing this blog entry may help me think out loud, as I decide, four or five?

    03

  • November 2010

  • Introducing Photo Synesi!

    Photography has been one of the constants in my life since I fell in love with the medium back in high school.  In the nearly forty years since then, I have been continually experimenting with different ways to both photograph just the way I want while making a living at it.  Along the way, I have worked selling cameras, done portraiture, weddings, studio work, fine-art photography, university teaching, etc. Of course, I have also done a lot of the editorial photography that has sustained me for the last decade.  During the last couple years I have finally come to appreciate the upside of what once looked like an helter-skelter, ever-changing career path.  

    27

  • The making of a grumpy old photographer

    When I was first starting out as a photographer, I spent a lot of time with a few “grumpy old photographers.” Since I was the “young whippersnapper” back then, I was the butt of many of their jabs and barbed comments. I generally took it all in stride because I knew what I was learning from them was incredibly valuable. I also secretly hoped that I would survive long enough in the business of publication photography to become a “grumpy old photographer” too. As I have slowly earned the designation of “older,” I often wondered what was going to make me as “grumpy” as those guys. That finally happened recently and it surprised me when it did.

    19

  • Creativity and Solitude

    Recently, two seemingly unrelated events occurred at about the same time. After a couple days of trying to figure out why my subconscious was connecting them, my conscious mind finally figured it out. It started when a friend sent me a great quote about creativity and solitude. I received it, and excitedly passed it on to friends and family. This all happened during the hectic few days of the Photo Plus Expo, the big New York City photography trade show/conference. You have probably already made the connection that it took me a few days to make. Let me tell you about my journey to better understanding.

    12

  • Open sourcing the business side of photography (part two of two)

    In the first part of this two-part entry, I explored old and new models for information sharing information on the best practices in the business of photography. Last week, I “framed “the question and gave some useful examples of open sourcing of business information. This week, I will do my part by going into my business model, making my own small contribution to the process of open sourcing the business side of photography.

    05

  • October 2010

  • Open sourcing the business side of photography (part one of two)

    A friend recently posted a thought-provoking comment about one of my September blog posts on The Wells Point site. The blog entry was titled: “Going pro vs doing photography for love, not money.” One question he raised in his comment was so good that I wrote him back, saying I would answer him in a blog post. So here goes.

    29

  • Just say no

    A friend wrote me with an especially interesting question. In between when he posed the question and when I sat down to answer it, a bit of time passed. During that time, I was confronted with a few situations where I had to practice what I was going to preach to him when I answered his question. At first, I was annoyed by the delay and impatient with myself. In the end, what happened after the delay made me work harder as a self-employed photographer. It also made the questions that I am exploring in this blog entry more complicated (and interesting) than ever.

    22

  • Lessons learned from old tax records

    My wife and I have been living in a small apartment for a few months, while we are looking for a new home, after selling our old place. It has been a real education on a number of levels. Some have been more personal/ philosophical and others have been more photographic/professional. Together this impromptu education has been an added benefit in what we knew was going to be an interesting experience. This week’s blog will explore the parts our experience that involve my current favorite topic, the changing nature of professional photography.

    15

  • Why photograph for money?

    I have been reading many recent blog entries, across the web, talking about the changing business of commercial photography, now that digital imaging has “democratized” photography. Most of the blogs are talking about things like the wisdom of “going pro,” the hurdles to overcome in order to do that and various important thinking points in building a photography business. These are all VERY important questions and I am glad to know someone is pondering them in order to spur a much-needed dialogue on the subject. I have yet to read the blog post I have long wanted to read on that same subject. That would be titled something like: “Why photograph for money?” Since no one else has written that blog, I am going to try to do that myself.

    08

  • What I learned at the California Photo Festival

    Last week, I was one of thirteen photographers teaching at the first annual California Photo Festival. The instructors brought a diverse range of styles to the temporary community of photographers that briefly sprung up near San Luis Obispo, California. As I flew West, I was very curious about how the mix of instructors (and photographic styles) would work together. Now that the festival is over, I can look back (and talk about) what happened, at least from where I was sitting. The lessons I learned will benefit most any serious photographer.

    01

  • September 2010

  • Defining my own place in photography

    It is mid-September, which for me means the beginning of my working year. During the summer that just ended, like most recent summers, I certainly worked hard, but I also relaxed a good bit. So, now I am starting my busiest season of September to June. That is when I travel the most for work, teach most of my workshops, give most of my presentations, make most of my stock photos and do most of my assignments. I have been planning out the next nine months or so for the last year and a half. I am aware that in this age of last minute planning, this much advance planning seems counter-intuitive. But for me, such long-term planning allows me to get as close as possible to achieving most, if not all of my goals. Defining those goals has been a long process, as has been learning to manage my time in order to achieve them. That long (and continuing) journey is the subject of this week’s blog entry.

    24

  • Going pro vs doing photography for love, not money

    I make my living as a professional photographer. I initially believed that the designation “professional” meant that my photographs were so good that people would part with their hard-earned money to own, publish or see my work. Digital photography has prompted me to rethink that idea a good bit. Today, millions of new images are created weekly and the perceived value of those images is spiraling downward. A couple recent e-mails from student and the democratization of photography caused by the digital imaging have contributed to that reconsideration. The thought process that I went through as I pondered this question is the heart of this week’s blog entry.

    17

  • Thinking points for grant applications

    I have been very fortunate to have been honored with a number of grants and fellowships over the years. I will be the first to admit that they have been real milestones in my career. A peer recently wrote me with a question about my experience applying for such grants. In the process of thinking out and then writing down my response, I realized a couple things. The last thing I realized was that her question (and my response) were a blog entry in the making. The other insights that I had are part of the piece below.

    10

  • Formulating the grammar, aesthetic and style of multi-media

    During my recent time at the Maine Media Workshops there was much discussion about what is being called “convergence.” The idea is that in the future, still images, video and audio are going to converge into one common media. With nearly all communication moving to the world-wide-web, that logic is largely irrefutable. The works that results from this mixing of media is currently referred to as multi-media. The faculty, staff and students at the workshop spoke often about that. I have been making such multi-media pieces myself, often for this site. To me, one of the most interesting things about multi-media is that as a new medium, we have a unique opportunity to formulate the grammar, aesthetic and style of this new media-in-the-making.

    03

  • August 2010

  • Photography workshops as creative communities

    I just finished teaching a great class in street photography. The students were lively, the locations we photographed were interesting and the creative community where I was teaching was incredibly stimulating. During the time I was working at the Maine Media Workshops, I dined with, talked to and saw the work of some of contemporary photography’s masters. In the class I was teaching, there were people who had the potential to be the next generation of photography’s masters. On the way home from Maine, we stopped in to see an old friend, a former assistant who I had worked with years ago at the Workshops. It was eight great days immersed deeply in the community of people who love photography. It got me thinking…..

    30

  • A refresher course in low light photography

    I am finishing up teaching a workshop in street photography at the Maine Media Workshops this week. As I have for the last decade or so, I am enjoying the students and the community that come together at the workshops. The place has an incredible energy and sharing that can only be experienced in person. In the spirit of that, I am blogging in response to a student’s recent question.

    27

  • Photos, websites and lawyers

    Let me start by saying, I know a lot about the first, some about the second and even less about the third. I am not a lawyer and I am not going to give legal advice in this blog. I am going to try to parse out a question that came from a student. I told her that by answering her question and writing a blog posting at the same time, I could kill two birds with one stone.

    23

  • Late summer snippets

    After six fascinating weeks in India I flew home and I plunged right into a workshop in street photography at ICP (International Center for Photography) in New York City. Then I returned to Providence, to complete the sale of my house, move out of that and into a new apartment. Next week I am off to the Maine Media Workshops to teach another workshop. So, I have been busy! I have also been gathering snippets to share as the summer nears its end.

    20

  • A confession, of sorts

    I have a confession to make publicly. I did something last week that I have long sworn I would never do. I went against many long-held principles purely for the sake of expediency. I used to sneer at people who behaved as I just did. I took the easy way out and I know that my actions hurt at least one person, if not many more.

    16

  • Who owns what? Model releases and copyright

    Model releases and copyright seem to be the source of more confusion than almost any other aspects of commercial photography. Though the law in both areas is quite well established, all sorts of new and insidious ideas are being bandied about on the Internet, which are to the detriment of photographers (as well as morally and legally wrong.)

    13

  • A hierarchy of memory

    I generally write (blog) as way to organize the jumble of activity in my head. I am writing this particular entry after six weeks in India (and what seems like an equally long flight to get home.) The flight was not really six weeks of course, but the intensity of how experienced the two flights left me thinking about how we initially encounter and later remember experiences. Photographs often facilitate this process. Some discussions with family in India prompted me to think further about the intertwined relationship between images, family stories and memory.

    09

  • Even more summer-time snippets

    I read a lot about photography every day. (Duh!) I encounter hundreds of links, varying from idiotic Viagra ads to Nigerian bank scams to interesting photography sites. Though I am pretty good at knowing what not to look at, and waste time clicking on, I default to the idea that it is better to look than it is to risk missing something of value. This blog entry explores recent links where I have clicked through and I have been rewarded for my efforts.

    06

  • Why I am not a big fan of the Gorillapod

    A student, who will be in my next class at the Maine Media Workshops, wrote me with a question about buying a tripod. She had already viewed my podcast on the table-top tripod that I use and she wanted my thoughts on that on that tripod as compared to the Gorillapod. This was not the first time I have been asked this question. For me, a question asked more than once usually merits a blog post and so here is her answer (and today’s blog post.)

    02

  • July 2010

  • India and Singapore, Singapore and India

    Coming back from Singapore to India, I ran smack into a reminder of how efficient Singapore is and how far India has to go to catch up. This blog has nothing to do with photography per se, but everything to do with culture, progress, social change, etc. If that is of interest, read on. If not join me again in a few days.

    30

  • Musings on developing a style

    I have been back in India for a few days after a week in Singapore. Returning reminds me how the chaos of India contrasts dramatically with the order of Singapore. As a street photographer, that same unruliness is one thing that makes India so compelling. On the other hand, as a person who thrives on efficiency and order, Singapore holds an equal attraction. I wrote in the first of these three blog entries about the “journey” that Singaporean society as a whole is trying to take as it moves up the economic ladder. As I see it, such progress will only be made when individuals embrace the more unruly aspects of the creative processes. In this blog entry, I will answer the query of one Singaporean who has taken on that challenge.

    26

  • First Singapore musings

    I just finished up three short workshops in Singapore. As always, I enjoyed the place and the people there immensely. (The hot sticky weather is another story.) The food is good, the workshop where I was teaching is great and the infrastructure there is amazing. Still, my favorite part of Singapore is the struggle going on about their future. They are collectively aware that in order maintain their status as one of the most vibrant economies in the world they need to keep moving up the economic ladder. The step they aspire to make next, to become innovators/creators of new products and services, has the potential to vault them to the top of the pyramid.

    23

  • More Summertime Snippets

    By relocating to Asia for much of the summer, we are undertaking something new to us. Some of the work I am doing here is specific to being here, whether researching an upcoming assignment in India or teaching a class in Singapore. Much of my time is spent on work that I could do anywhere, whether blogging or creating new podcasts. Since my life here is more slow-paced than back “home,” I have been enjoying the opportunity to ponder a few ideas that have been piling up in my “blogs-to-be” folder.

    19

  • War stories, part two

    In the first part of this series of blog entries, I wrote about recent ethics controversies spurred by student photographers going to places like Haiti in order to develop their skills and their portfolios, as they photograph the horror of that nation’s earthquake/disaster. I appreciate the ethical issues raised by such actions, but my overarching question was, and still is, how do aspiring conflict photographers develop the skills required for covering war/disaster? In this blog entry, I will talk about how I developed my own, limited skills in that area of photojournalism and what I learned in the process of gaining those skills.

    16

  • War stories, part one

    For the last few months I have been carrying around a copy of a commentary written by the National Geographic photographer, turned university professor, Steve Raymer. It appeared in the March, 2010 issue of the magazine, News Photographer (which is published by the National Press Photographer’s Association.) He talks about the photography of Haiti’s earthquake/disaster as well as the ethics of students going to places like Haiti in an attempt to develop their portfolios as they photograph that horror. All of this, and last week’s “bandh,” here in India, prompted me to tease out some of my own “war stories” and put them down in type.

    12

  • Who are the next victims of creative destruction?

    Do you think there has been a lot of yelling and screaming as digital technology has transformed the world of photography (and more recently video?) You are right! But, in the eyes of some, the worst is yet to come. The next victim(s) of creative destruction are going to put up a huge stink as they go sadly into technological oblivion. Their yelling and screaming will make the ruckus that photographers raised pale by comparison.

    09

  • Hastening the demise

    Regular readers know that I often write about how rapidly changing technology is killing off various markets for professional photographers. I am concerned about this for selfish reasons, since I am a commercial photographer. I am also concerned for the next generation of photographers, wondering which photographic disciplines will be left for them to actually make money working in. If my recent experience is any indication, the future, with fewer and fewer financially viable market for pros is already here. I should know since I personally just hastened the demise of one viable market for commercial photography.

    05

  • Fading Fast

    I have been in Bangalore, India, less than a week and I can already see a lot of changes. Some of those are in the urban landscape and the culture. Others are in my own thinking and the way my mind’s eye processes what I encounter. I suspect that these collective changes will make this an especially interesting time to be in India’s so-called Silicon City.

    02

  • June 2010

  • Summertime snippets

    I am just settling into place in India, where I will be for much of the next six weeks. I am here partly because my daughter is volunteering at a school working with under-served children in Bangalore, India. I am also here because it is a great place to photograph (and spend part of the summer.) With summer and the idea of vacation in mind, my blog entries over next couple months may be shorter, the result of my own efforts to enjoy my holiday.

    28

  • The power of paper

    If all goes well, this will be the last blog entry prompted by the discoveries that I made during my recent spring-cleaning. As I was reviewing, editing and purging old documents, files and papers, I had a few more flashes of wisdom worthy of one last blog entry. Those insights reminded me of the value of my having studied the history of photography in college. Although I make my living as a commercial photographer, that education, focused on the liberal arts, rather than on a specific skill, continues to serve me well, thirty-odd years later.

    25

  • preserving memories, sound or sight

    I blogged (and podcasted) earlier this spring about the discoveries I made during my in-depth spring-cleaning. I explored what I learned about my own photography as I reviewed, edited and purged thousands of old photographs and transparencies. More recently, I have been similarly reviewing, editing and purging other old recordings, documents, files and papers. Some were personally poignant and others were professionally compelling. The entire process is worthy of at least a couple more blog entries.

    21

  • The contracting of our collective visual culture

    I make most of my living as a stock photographer. Stock photography is rapidly changing. Those changes have been impacting me (and my peers) for quite a while. So far you are thinking to yourself, none of this is big news. The news is that recently, the pace of that change hit a tipping point for me (and I am guessing for the larger world of stock photography.) If you care about photography in general (and stock photography in particular,) then what has been happening lately is especially bad news.

    18

  • Gear and old gear

    My last blog entry, exploring gear and goals left me thinking about my own gear acquisition history. I have written before about how, these days, I tend to be slow to adopt new gear. I only displace technology that works well for me if the newer technology is a notable improvement. (DSLRs that capture video are one example of a notable technology shift.) I will be first to admit this was not always the case. In college and during my first few years as a freelancer, I churned through different sets of gear. I was trying to figure out who I was as a photographer (and which technology would help me make the photographs I wanted to make.) In looking back, I have noted that certain pieces of gear have stayed with me throughout over my career, including some that have been with me a very long time.

    14

  • Goals and gear

    A friend wrote me with a variation of the most common question I am asked, “What gear should I buy next?” In a technology-based pursuit like photography, the question appears to make sense. This is doubly so in a creative pursuit which is largely shared through advertising driven media. Before I answered him, I grilled him with a few more questions. Then I came back to him with a suggestion for the one thing that every photographer should be spending more time and money on, especially these days.

    11

  • Exploring our responsibility to the people we photograph (part four)

    Patient readers of this blog will know this is the fourth (and last) entry in a series exploring the question, what is the photographer’s responsibility to the people they photograph? I have been muddling through these four essays because it is not an easy question to answer. Similarly, there is no magic bullet or one size fits all solution. The one thing I can say with complete certainty is that anyone who claims to have such a simple, crystal clear answer is oversimplifying, has never worked in the real world, is delusional or all of the above.

    07

  • Exploring our responsibility to the people we photograph (part three)

    In between making a living and preparing for a big trip to India I have been mining my career (and my memory) as I consider the question, what is the photographer’s responsibility to the people they photograph? Answering that question has been (and will continue to be) a work in progress for me over my entire career. I can think of a few points where I got that balance closer to right and a couple where I am less sure that I did that.

    03

  • May 2010

  • Exploring our responsibility to the people we photograph (part two)

    In the last (and the next) few blog posts, I am exploring the question, what is the photographer’s responsibility to the people they are photographing? On one level this is an intensely personal decision that is best answered after an equally intensely process of decision-making. On the other hand, it has to be guided by some larger philosophical framework. If that sounds like an ethical dilemma, I think it is. Because I am slightly closer to the end of that long process rather than the beginning, I can identify and share some of the milestones of my own journey.

    31

  • Exploring our responsibility to the people we photograph (part one)

    A photographer/friend wrote me with an excellent question, one that I now realize that I have been struggling with over my entire career as a photographer/photojournalist. In order to answer him coherently I needed to do what I have been doing in so many recent blog entries. That is, taking the question, rolling it around in my head, mining my life’s experience, making some half-baked notes and then asking him (and myself) more questions. Although I have the outlines of an answer, I have no idea exactly where this series of blog entries will go by the time it is it is finished. The one thing I am sure of is that it will take me a few postings to both think through my answer and to make it coherent enough for others to understand.

    28

  • Staring at life, staring at death (part two)

    In the first part of this two-part blog entry, I shared my daughter’s perspective on our shared experience photographing kids with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses through an organization called, “Flashes of Hope.” Although I was in the exact same place as she was, working on the same project, I took away a different set of experiences from that very emotionally compelling day. Out experiences are divergent of course because of many reasons including the fact that she is a child and I am a parent. Our perspectives also diverged because of how we experienced the same people in very different ways. In the end, we came to the same belief, that family photos are an especially important part of the world of photography. The route we took to get there was a bit different.

    24

  • Staring at life, staring at death (part one)

    As an art photographer I like to think of my photographs as creative interpretations of an idea or experience I have had. As a photojournalist, I hope that my images work as narratives of an event or issue that I think others should know about. I have recently been considering some other particularly compelling ways to think about the photographs that we photographers make.

    22

  • A Lesson About Lessons in Photography

    Golf, as a sport and the popular obsession with it have long mystified me. Even in the wake of the recent crash and burn of Tiger Woods, I normally would not follow it much. However, a friend who is as much a golfer as he is a photographer has pressed me to write something about golf and photography and I did so back in October of 2009. I would have left it there but I recently stumbled on a great article in the New York Times titled, “A Lesson About Lessons,” by Bill Pennington. As I read it, I thought that much of what he wrote applies to photography as much as to golf.

    17

  • Black and white vs Color (part three)

    This is the final of three blog posts exploring the question of using color vs black and white in photography. To date, I have shared work that was intentionally made in color and later converted to black and white for comparison purposes. I also shared work that was made in color, but was intended to be experienced in black and white. After sharing those two sets of work I also wrote about factors to consider when choosing between the various media. In this last entry, I will offer some other, last thoughts on the two media. These points, and in fact all three blog entries apply to both looking at existing work and to making new work.

    14

  • Black and white vs Color (part two)

    In my last blog entry, I started exploring the question of black and white vs. color photographs. Specifically, I was talking about how a photographer should think clearly about the intentional choice of using one or the other for a given project. To get started, I suggested that readers look at a set of my photographs, exploring the foreclosure crisis, in both color and in black and white. The set of work that I offered in both media, was made in color and later converted to black and white. While those photos were intentionally created and presented in color, what about work that was made in color but was intended to be seen in black and white?

    10

  • Black and white vs Color (part one)

    One thing that I love about blogging (and teaching,) is how both have helped me take a half-baked idea and clarify it. Like most people, my head is a jumble of ideas that come and go. Certain ideas appear more often than others, and the most persistent ones eventually take on a life of their own. When they do that, they move from my head out into the real world, through my photography, my teaching or other behavior. One such idea that has been rolling around in my thinking for a long time finally crystallized this last week.

    07

  • Pictures, purges and process (part two)

    As of late, I have been writing about the massive spring-cleaning I have undertaken over the last few weeks. I am pretty much done with this archival edit and purge. I have also been thinking how much fun it was looking through thirty plus year’s worth of work. In all, it was a good starting point to reconsider the evolution of my style as a photographer. If I had to give that journey a title, as I went from a beginning photographer to an established professional, the best phrase would be “moving the goals posts.”

    03

  • April 2010

  • Pictures, purges and process (part one)

    I recently wound up a series of blog entries exploring my experiences with and thoughts about technology. The non-technological process of spring-cleaning prompted all of these posts. In the process of that cleaning (or more accurately my massive archival purge,) I looked at thousands and thousands of my old images. Some scared me, some impressed me and some surprised me. Though it was not my intention, it turned out to be a great way to consider the arc of my evolution, as a photographer and as a professional.

    30

  • Technologies, necessary and otherwise (part three)

    This is the last of three blog entries, for the moment, exploring my thoughts on technology. The entire set came from things swirling through my head lately. Events, especially e-mails, prompted me to organize those thoughts into the first two e-mails. This entry explores the starting point for all three posts, which was the fairly non-technical process of spring-cleaning.

    26

  • Technologies, necessary and otherwise (part two)

    Earlier this week, I blogged about GPS technology and how one photographer, Lowell, had found a great use for that particular technology, one that does not interest me in the least. Another photographer, Michael, recently wrote me about another technological question he had issues with. I know now how he and I deal with the technology in question, but we wondered about others.

    23

  • Technologies, necessary and otherwise (part one)

    I recently blogged about what I think of as the four questions each photographer should ask themselves. The fourth, and newest question was “What technology/software/camera gear will keep me focused on what I do best…?” The idea was that we are so overwhelmed with new digital imaging technology offerings that sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. A recent email exchange prompted me to think about that question again. This will be the first of a few blog entries exploring my thoughts on digital imaging technologies, necessary and otherwise.

    19

  • How do you critique photographs?

    How do you become a better photographer? That’s the big question isn’t it? In my experience, the best way is to take a lot of pictures and then get serious feedback on those same photos. (The second best way is to look at the work of other photographers.) With that in mind, then how exactly how do you critique photographs? As I say in my classes, “Saying wow, neat or cool is not critiquing photographs.” To seriously give (and get) feedback on photographs, we need a common, serious, analytical language for critiquing photographs.

    16

  • Critics and controversy

    There is a new exhibition of the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. I look forward to seeing it in person in the near future. I have long been a fan of Cartier-Bresson’s work. His was some of the first important work I saw when I was studying the history of photography. The work showed me how photography could be so much more than just a representation of the scene in front of the camera. Up to that point I had learned most of what I knew about photography from a commercial photographer turned photo teacher. Starting from that point, Cartier-Bresson’s work was a paradigm shift for me. In the recent review in the New York Times of the new Cartier-Bresson exhibition, the reviewer is attempting to similarly shift the paradigm of how we should consider the work of Cartier-Bresson. His approach struck me as almost absurd (and his review had factual errors.)

    12

  • Surviving “Hell Week” in fine-art photography

    The phrase “Hell Week” refers to a number of similar rituals, among them the initial time of hazing in college fraternities, the most rigorous component of the United States Navy SEAL training program, a police academy’s most rigorous training regimen, the technical week of theatre rehearsals or the most common usage, the week of intensive conditioning before the start of any season of a sport. There are undoubtedly other examples of this ritual of hard work, emotional stress and personal challenges. The first “Hell Week” that I survived was at the start of my first of two seasons playing water polo in sunny Southern California. A couple of friends recently survived what I have come to think of as the “fine-art photography” version of “Hell Week.”

    09

  • Out of the eyes of babes

    About a month ago, my teenage daughter saw the new, sleek Olympus camera (the E-P1) that I have been using lately. She said she wanted to try it out. I was not sure if she was motivated by purely adolescent curiosity or her generation’s obsession with the newest, latest thing. I do know that although she spent her childhood in front of my camera being photographed for fun and work, she never has shown much interest in being behind the camera. Watching her use the new camera and then looking at the work she made set me to thinking (and blogging.)

    05

  • The end of the photography world as we know it

    The philosophical riddle, “if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” has become the starting point of many jokes. It also raises important questions regarding observation and how we establish/define reality. While a physicist can empirically (and easily) prove that yes, a noise is made, the philosopher is less sure about what is thruth. A recent article in the New York Times, and especially the reaction to it, reminded me of this philosophical question.

    02

  • March 2010

  • Everything you should know about buying a serious camera

    I am working with an intern who is looking to move from film to digital photography. A family friend is moving up from a point-and-shoot to a serious Digital SLR. After giving both of them the same basic answers, I realized that their question is one I have answered dozens of times over the years. I also I realized that their question (and especially my answers) are a blog entry in the making.

    29

  • The four questions each photographer should ask themselves

    The Jewish holiday of Passover (or Pesach) is almost here and with it comes the Seder. That ritualized meal marks the holiday as it prompts the attendees to eat and to ask themselves some important questions. These include important questions of freedom vs. slavery and vengeance vs. empathy. One highlight of the Seder ritual is the asking of the four questions, by the youngest person at the table. Though I have long since given up on being the one to ask those questions, I have been compiling my own list of four questions for photographers. This time of year seemed to be the logical time to share those.

    26

  • Multimedia as mediator

    If you have been reading my recent blog postings (or attending any of my recent presentations,) you will know I am almost obsessed with multi-media. Although I am interested in multi-media (or new media) as a potential added revenue stream, that is not the main reason I am so interested in the subject. Similarly, though it is the talk of the commercial photography world that is also NOT why I am interested in it.

    22

  • Problems and possibilities: Considering photography’s limitations

    I was reading the New York Times recently and encountered an article, with photos, that really struck a chord with me. The article was interesting but the photos were unexceptional. It took me a while to figure out why I was so moved, but once I did, it also lead me to think about the power and the limitations of still photographs. I am not sure that still photography (or today’s multi-media) can ever fully get past those limitations. But the more I understand the question, the better equipped I will be to at least try to address it.

    19

  • Some downsides of digital imaging

    Digital imaging has transformed photography in many ways, mostly for the better, as far as I am concerned. One downside of digital is that photo-educators, like me, are nurturing a generation of photographers who have never used film nor developed photos in a darkroom. The next generation will, by and large, have missed the magical experience of watching an image come up in the developer. That moment was what hooked me (and thousands of other photographers like me) on the magic of photography. I recently came to appreciate other downsides of digital imaging.

    15

  • Learning how you learn, photographically and otherwise

    I recently finished my annual class built around photographing the Tucson Rodeo. The weather was great and the pictures were even better! Most everyone we encountered was happy to be photographed. The class was a small group, so everyone got lots of attention. Because it was such a small group, I had time to analyze how each person learned. By the time the class was over, events had reminded me that in some ways, the most important thing ANY student should learn is exactly how they do learn.

    12

  • Valuing creativity in music (and photography)

    I recently wrote about the similarities and differences between music and photography. While we experience each through very different senses, they also have a lot in common. Both have long, rich histories, which I pondered briefly in the last blog entry. This week, I am thinking about the fact that while both are used artistically and commercially, their respective approaches to compensating creators are very different.

    08

  • Covers in music (and photography)

    I have often pondered the similarities, differences and connections between music and photography. The former is something I have no talent for, other than the ability to enjoy it. The latter is something that I continually find both challenging and rewarding. I have considered these two media throughout my life, initially, as a toe-tapping teenager and now as a working, creative professional. Some recent reading spurred me to sit down and try to make some sense out of the jumble of ideas that I have about photography and music. Some of what I settled on is more philosophical and some is more practical, resulting in two separate blog entries, of which this is the first.

    05

  • Internet good news and bad news

    It is such a cliché to say, “What did we do before the Internet,” yet it also is a good question. For my teenage daughter, there is no such thing as life without the Internet. I do remember that time and as a rule, I prefer today’s technology over the “old days,” of going to libraries, photocopying pages, writing notes, etc. I am not here to wax nostalgic about times gone by. I am here to offer a few new, useful resources. Then I will talk about something of a drawback to the Internet.

    01

  • February 2010

  • Buying various types of camera insurance

    A friend is heading off to India on a fascinating assignment. Besides giving him advice on India, our conversation turned to the potential risks there. Inevitably, (and wisely) this led us to the question of insurance, particular in terms of cameras. I walked him through the various types of insurance I have. As I did that, I realized how often I mentioned the mistakes that I made over the years, as I figured out what to do in terms of insurance. Wanting to save him (and others) from the problems I encountered, I transformed that conversation into this blog entry.

    26

  • Darwinian competition among photographers….

    I am now working out West. Last week I was in California photographing for my ongoing project on the foreclosure crisis. This week I am in Arizona photographing and teaching a workshop at the Tucson Rodeo. I am thrilled to be out of the cold in the Northeast. Since coming West, I have been watching some of the winter Olympics. That way I get to look at plenty of snow and ice, without, of course, the shivering that comes with it. Watching the competition in Vancouver, I noted the ever-narrower differences between the medalists and the also-rans. This got me to thinking about evolutionary biology and that lead me back to photographers.

    22

  • Thinking points for any photographer

    I was recently catching up on my reading of photography magazines and enjoying one of my favorite magazines. I remembered what great a resource it was and how much I had learned from the recently started publication. Then I also remembered it was free, which made it all that much of a better “read.” I am assuming they make their money via advertising because they are not making it via subscriptions. I think one reason they are so successful (and get lots of advertising) is that they do a good job of staying “on message.” They focus on their one area of interest and largely ignoring the rest of the vast world of digital photography.

    19

  • What is my naming convention and how did I come up with it?

    In the last blog entry, I explained the importance of a naming convention and offered some things to think about in creating your own. In this blog entry, I will tell you my thinking in creating the system that I use. It is NOT for everyone, but it works for me. If you understand how I came to structure my set-up, maybe it will make it easier when you start to make your own system.

    15

  • What is a naming convention and why do you need one?

    What is a naming convention? Is that when a bunch of names get together and agree on who will be their presidential candidate? Nah, seriously, a naming convention is one of the most important parts of digital imaging workflow and yet most photographers have little idea what it is, let alone how to use it.

    12

  • Grants made easy and grants made hard

    Is it my imagination or are some photography competitions almost begging for submissions? Lately, I have been inundated with calls for work! I have been gathering various these requests for submissions in order to make a blog entry on the subject. I am not sure if it was my looking for them that made me extra sensitive or maybe it might be how the web creates a kind of echo chamber so when one site lists a competition, five of my friends send me the same notification.

    08

  • Onward and __ward in the world of stock photography (part two of two)

    Because I make my living primarily as a stock photographer I spend a great deal of time and energy trying to understand the “stock market.” (I am not referring to the one in New York City’s financial district.) Today, the market for and suppliers of stock photography cross the globe. So the more I know about the business, the more successful I will be within that growing global market. In the first part of this two-part blog entry I wrote about which of my own images seem to work better and why. Now I am writing about other concerns that any stock photographer (practicing or aspiring) should think about.

    05

  • Onward and __ward in stock photography (part one of two)

    I make my living primarily as a stock photographer meaning most of my income comes from licensing the publication of existing images. This is compared to being primarily an assignment photographer or a teacher of photography (though I do plenty of both.) The stock photography business is known to be increasingly competitive, with too much supply and not enough demand, the classic signs of a declining market. A few recent experiences served to remind me which parts of the market for stock photography are still doing reasonably well and why!

    01

  • January 2010

  • Variations on a theme

    In my photography, my teaching and my discussions with other photographers, the idea of variations on a theme comes up often. For me, one of the joys of looking at photographs is seeing the different ways that photographers interpret the same thing. Yet, when some photographers come together to talk or photograph they can get territorial about their imagery and their ideas. Recent events have reminded me why this kind of thinking is limiting.

    29

  • My favorite part of my favorite class

    I recently wound up my time in Asia with a stop in Singapore, where I gave a few short presentations to large audiences as well as some longer workshops for smaller audiences. Everyone I worked with seemed happy with what I did, so I will be going back next year. So keep an eye on the workshops page of my website to see exactly when I will be going back and what I will be doing.  The very last thing I did when I was there this year was to teach my favorite class.  I ended that class with my favorite teaching exercise.

    25

  • My long-time “project” on Communism

    During my recent trip to Vietnam, I put to rest the lingering anxieties, stereotypes and misconceptions that I had held on to concerning that country. On that same trip, I also “finished” a long-standing (and rather informal) “personal project” that I had been working on for a couple decades. Since I was eighteen I have been subconsciously trying to “understand” Communism. The project was not an overtly photographic one, but photography certainly helped me in my pursuit of better understanding of that ideology.

    22

  • Vietnam as a war, Vietnam as a country

    When I told my seventeen-year old daughter I was going to Vietnam, she was very impressed. I ostensibly went to visit a friend who lives there and to try to see the country through his eyes. I also went to photograph (and scout locations for a potential photo workshop.) I am pretty sure my daughter thinks of Vietnam in connection with the TV show, the Amazing Race and maybe the musical, Miss Saigon. For American men of a certain age (like me,) Vietnam conjures up something very different.

    18

  • Some more new resources for photographers

    I recently spent five short days in Vietnam. I will be blogging about that soon, and posting a pod-cast exploring my reactions to that country. I want a few days to digest my experience in terms of blogging and few weeks to make the multi-media piece. In the mean time, I wanted to share some information and a few web sites that I came across recently. The connection to Vietnam is that although I was well into the developing world there, because of the Internet, I was able to keep up on many things happening in the world of photography.

    15

  • How do we think about the “age” of a photograph?

    I have been thinking/writing a lot recently about how photographs “age.” I do not mean physically, though that is an important question. I mean in terms of how we experience them as old or new. Recently, I blogged about my wife’s current project, photographing three or more generations of Indian women and turning those portraits into animated, multi-generational family portraits. Last week, I wrote about the importance of making actual, physical prints in order to preserve important memories. More recently, I was corresponding with a friend about his images, which were made decades ago. We were trying to figure out when an image changes from something contemporary (even if not recent) into a historical document. Since most photographs capture a moment in time, all this pondering makes some sense. On the other hand, it may just as likely be that I am extra sensitive to the passing of time, having just had a birthday.

    11

  • One small history of Indian photography – Part two

    (In the first chapter of this blog entry, I introduced Prabhu Photo, a state-of-the-art photo lab in Bangalore, India where I had my E-6 slide film processed for merely a decade. The changing business climate for Prabhu photo is a bellwether for the changing imaging landscape in India.) I was such a regular at Prabhu that I kept my own loupe (magnifier) at the lab and I also had my own set of cotton gloves for handling the film without fingerprints. The young men who worked for Prabhu ended up knowing the drill as well, including knowing not to cut my film and what kind of coffee to bring me half ay through my edits to keep me awake. Those sessions at the light box alternated between exciting and heart-breaking, depending on how well or badly I had done in capturing on film what had been in front of my camera.

    08

  • One small history of Indian photography – Part one

    I have been spending a lot of time at Prabhu Photo, a state-of-the-art photo lab in Bangalore, India. Back in the day, in the last century, (hah,) when I was shooting color slides, I used to have them processed at that same lab. Now that I have gone digital, I am going there to have color prints made from digital files. These prints are mostly for the various Indians I, or my wife, have been photographing. In the time I have known and worked with the proprietor, Allama Prabhu, I have seen his business grow and grow and more recently contract and contract. The change in the business of Prabhu Photo is something of a microcosm for the history of photographic processes in India. The amazing thing is that I am only talking about a short, thirteen year “history.”

    04

  • Face to face with the law of unintended consequences

    Recent experiences have reminded me of one of my favorite economist’s terms, the so-called “law of unintended consequences.” It is not a law in the literal sense, but refers to the idea that actions of people—and especially of organizations—often have effects that are unanticipated or unintended. Economists and other social scientists have long understood this, but organizations and individuals often ignore it at their peril. I am not sure why, but when I am in South Asia, I think about this more often than I do at home.

    01

  • December 2009

  • Indian odds and ends

    My time in Calcutta, India, has ended and I am now in Bengaluru, (formerly Bangalore,) with my wife’s family. Considering how bad the weather is in the U.S. right now, I am particularly pleased to be here where it is warm and dry, working in familiar territory. This trip to India has been a bit of a whirlwind, with five-day stops in both Chennai (formerly Madras) and Kolkatta (formerly Calcutta.) Now I am starting a longer stay in Bengaluru. All this moving about has left me with bits and pieces of things to think about, which will make up this blog entry.

    28

  • At the intersection of the art and craft of photography

    While spending a week in Calcutta, India, I saw (and photographed) many things. Having previously spent little time in Calcutta, everything I experienced and pondered there seemed to be doubly intense. This was quite a sensation, since going anywhere in India is always so intense. In the future, I will share some of my experiences and thoughts that came out of my time in the place also known as the “City of Joy.” One thing I did that was especially interesting was to see an exhibition by an Indian photographer, Prashant Panjiar. The work I saw exists almost perfectly at the intersection of the art and craft of photography.

    25

  • Thoughts on getting feedback

    The class that I was teaching in India ended on the same note that many of my classes do. The students had made good progress and wanted to keep their creative growth going, after the class ended. I teased them, saying that about a week after the class they would all be “master” photographers. I say that to almost all my classes, because the things learned in a workshop take about a week to become an innate part of any student’s photography. The follow-up point is that about another week later, the skills they had learned in the class would start to diminish. The end of the joke is that about a month later, they would still be better photographers than when they entered the class, but no longer the “masters” they had briefly been. So what did I tell them to do to try to hold on to the “mastery” they had briefly achieved?

    21

  • Singaporeans and Creativity

    I just finished classes in Singapore and India, two countries that could not appear to be more different. In Singapore I taught evening seminars, while in India, I taught a class over four days on “light, shadow, twilight and night.” Regardless of length, all the classes were journeys of sorts, physical and/or intellectual. On all of these “trips,” I was accompanied by different groups of Singaporean photographers. Working in such divergent countries, just a few days apart, got me thinking.

    18

  • Debating ideas or being run over by change

    I have been having an email exchange with a still photographer I know who is conflicted about doing work in video, as he is getting paid to do just that kind of work. His experience of being knee deep in a debate, while the issues at the core of that same debate swirl all around you, that is something I have experienced a number of times in the last decade. The latest debate, about whether still photographers should embrace video, looks to be another one of these equally intense debates. For me, the only thing different about this debate is that I am now old enough (and maybe wise enough) to be able to take a step back and analyze it a bit better than I have with similar previous debates. Whether I will make the wise decision is something only time will tell.

    14

  • Watching as artists embrace and transform a new technology

    In my last blog post, I discussed ways artists/photographers use technology in both intended and unintended ways in order to tell their stories and/or express their ideas. This kind of hybrid-ization of technology is an ongoing process. For me, the latest stop on that path is in multi-media/video. My wife’s work, animating family photos, is her newest step in that ongoing process. I was recently reading about a new technology that I have already been using in its intended form. I realized how ripe that same technology is for experimentation. Soon artists/photographers will be exploiting that same technology in new and unintended ways. I think the really fun part will be watching this happen, observing the explorations as they happen rather than looking back after the fact and only then connecting the dots.

    11

  • Technology as artistic opportunity and aesthetic hurdle

    My wife, who is a photographer, has been producing some compelling animations / videos based on multi-generational portraits of Indian women. In the process of making the work, she went through a series of hurdles, just like any creative person would. She first struggled through the process of conceptualizing and defining the project. Once she knew what she wanted to do, she then applied for and had good luck getting a grant to fund the initial photographing and the post-production of the work. Over time the project evolved. She has recently completed the creation of the finished pieces. The work uses some of the latest digital technology to raise some interesting questions about time, memory and photographs. In the process of making the work, it seems she got a little too far in front of the existing technology. So much so that one of our current projects is to figure out what existing technology can be used to present her work in the exact way that she wants it be experienced.

    07

  • A new look at complaining about the “good old days”

    I was exchanging e-mails with Bob Krist, a freelance photographer who works regularly on assignment for National Geographic Traveler. Our dialogue started with the idea that when we were younger, the older photographers we admired complained about the good old days. I wondered if, today, when he and I are no longer young and are more prone to complain, are we just being nostalgic or is something really being lost in today’s photography market/climate?

    04

  • November 2009

  • Video vs photography, past, present and future

    What I know about video (other than what I have taught myself about editing in Final Cut Pro) could easily fit on one small page. What I will learn about video in the coming decades is unknowable. But, if I had to venture a guess, I would bet that fairly soon, I will be among the thousands of working photographers who will soon have to decide just how much more we want to, or need to, know about video.

    30

  • Thinking about photographs, not photography

    I spend a great deal of time thinking about photography (duh.) Recently, I had some encounters where I was pressed to think about the photograph itself. As I was thinking about that, I noted that most of my energy is concentrated on the process of photographing, rather than on the outcome of that process, the actual photograph. As I listened to other people talking about actual photographs, I had a “chicken vs. egg” moments, where I was unclear, which came first, the process of photography or the product?

    27

  • The biggest little gear discovery that I recently made

    When I was at the big Photo Plus trade show in New York City in October, I was looking at all sorts of new gear for photographers. I saw many things there, including one item that completely captured my attention. Before blogging about it, I wanted to buy one and try it. I have done that and now I am ready to tell you about the biggest little gear discovery that I made at the Photo Plus trade show in New York City.

    23

  • A photographic collaboration ten years in the making

    Ten years ago, I became part of a collaborative project photographing an exquisite old building in Tucson, Arizona. For me, photographing the building was the easy part. All I had to do was draw on the skills I often use in my previous “light studies,” my ongoing series of photo essays on the light and atmosphere of different places. The hard part was collaborating with two other photographers, while keeping my eye on the long-term prize, the finished project. It took a long time but the effort is near coming to fruition.

    20

  • Lessons in the business of photography

    Last Monday, November 9th, I gave a presentation in New York City at the Apple store in SoHo. It was titled “It’s the journey not the destination (but who does not like a good destination shoot?)” I was one of two photographers presenting that night. When I agreed to do this talk, months ago, I thought it might have made for a somewhat interesting evening. Little did I know, just how interesting that whole evening would actually be!

    16

  • Seasons for motorcycle riding (and photographing)

    With the arrival of November and the seriously cold weather, I just put my motorcycle away for the season. The way I was taught to “winterize” my bike involves a series of steps; changing the oil/filter, filling the gas tank and then chemically treating that new fuel. The last step involves partly disassembling the motorcycle in order to remove the battery, which comes inside with me for the winter. At the end, I look back with a bit of sadness at my pride and joy because she is splayed in pieces across the garage, as I pull the garage door shut. The whole process is slow, precise and requires a certain methodology. At the same time, it also marks the change of seasons for me.

    13

  • An impromptu course in design of web-sites for photographers

    These days, all photographers, from commercial/documentary to portrait/fine-art, live and die by their web sites. That should mean that most websites for photographers would be built with the same goal, showing the photographer’s work to its best advantage. You also would think that an equally important goal would be making those same sites easy to navigate and very user friendly. Based on my recent experience reviewing 13 photographer’s web-sites, those assumptions would be largely wrong.

    09

  • November grab bag of resources

    November is upon us! With October ending, I have new web resources to share. The way I work is that as I see something on the web that I find interesting, I drop it into a Word document titled “New_In_Process.” When the end of the month rolls around and/or I have enough items to share it becomes a blog entry, like this.

    06

  • Philadelphia vs New York in baseball (and photography)

    Professional baseball’s World Series is underway and the Philadelphia Phillies are playing the New York Yankees. Having lived in both Philadelphia and New York, I know just which team I am rooting for! My experience in each place, as a resident and as a photographer, strongly shapes my team loyalty.

    02

  • October 2009

  • The top ten things photo workshop attendees need know and do

    I just finished a couple workshops in two very different places. I have found that whether I am teaching in places as far away as Greece or as nearby as Cape Cod, certain things are the same in all workshops. I was going to call this “ten commandments for those attending photography workshops,” buy I thought that such a title might be misconstrued as religious in nature.

    30

  • Just back from the photo trade show

    I am just back from the big Photo Plus trade show in New York City. On one level, it was like years past with big crowds, lots of new toys and plenty of old friends to see and catch up with. On the other hand, some things were new and interesting and that is what I am going to be sharing in this post.

    26

  • The Wells Point after one year

    The Wells Point celebrated its first birthday yesterday. It has been quite a year. We launched last year just before the big Photo Plus trade show in New York City. This year, I am writing from NYC, where I am again attending the Photo Plus show. So, just what has happened within The Wells Point since the website went live on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008?

    23

  • Learning the language of photography

    Besides teaching workshops around the world, I run a few small on-line critique groups. These usually arise out of workshops where the students in the group have bonded and do not want to end the critiquing/dialogue that is at the core of any good workshop. So we meet in a conference call approximately every six weeks, catch-up on photography happenings and review work together on-line. Some interesting dialogues are born in these meetings. One particular thread of discussion from one meeting is well worth sharing.

    19

  • Autumn’s grab bag of web resources

    I am just back from a fast and fun workshop on Cape Cod. The Autumn weather was great for photographing. The many subjects we photographed (beaches at sunrise, cranberry harvesting, etc.) were fascinating. I am about to head off to New York City for the big Photo Plus Expo, the annual trade show “for professionals and advanced amateurs in the photographic and imaging industries.” I expect to leave that show with lots of info to share. Today’s blog is another grab bag of similar information I have been gathering that I hope you find worthwhile.

    16

  • Golfers, psychotherapists and photographers

    The legendary golfer, Jack Nicklaus is supposed to have said: “Golf is 90% mental.” So, you are asking yourself, what does golf (a sport I normally have no interest in) have to do with photography, the pursuit that I love? More than I ever thought, actually.

    12

  • Photographers and painters!?!?

    I am just back from Greece where I was teaching and photographing. During my photography workshop, there were also two painting workshops run by the same organization. The “photographers” ate and drank along with the “painters,” which made for some laugh-filled meals. There also was a subtle but interesting competition/ divergence going on between the various media.

    09

  • Seasonal rhythms in motorcycle riding and photography

    The arrival of autumn, my favorite season, brings a number of changes to my life. On a larger level, the school year begins, defining much of my wife and daughter’s schedules until the next summer returns. The looming colder weather also means it is time put my motorcycle away for the winter. Thinking about all of that lead to some thinking about photography. (Are you surprised?)

    05

  • A grab bag sent from Greece

    I write this from Santorini, Greece, where the light simply is amazing. I am having so much fun during my first trip to Greece that this blog post is going to be limited to a brief grab bag of things I have been gathering recently. I hope you find them interesting.

    02

  • September 2009

  • Isolated or interacting, that is the question

    Back in August, I wrote a blog post titled “A big, what is the meaning of life, kind of question.” I was intrigued when a friend wrote me back with his answers to the questions that I had posed (and then answered.) Some of his answers were so specific to his life and work that, though they were interesting to me, I am not sure the points he raised would be of interest to anyone else. He did raise one point that is almost universal for photographers, which became the seed of another blog post.

    28

  • What can the assistant bring to the photographer?

    When I wrote the recent post on “Group questions versus individual questions,” I was obviously writing about that topic. But, I was also using the process of writing to clarify my own thinking on that subject. As I started to answer a query from a student in the Fotovision class that I just finished in California, I ended up similarly clarifying my own thinking on another topic.

    25

  • Group questions versus individual questions

    I just finished teaching a workshop in Berkeley, California. Being in the San Francisco Bay area, the light was great. The group was very supportive of each other and the work they did was interesting. The questions they asked were many and good. They got me thinking about the questions I am often asked in workshops, in general and what I am trying to do with this blog.

    21

  • Why photographers need editors

    There are numerous aphorisms about what separates the serious/successful photographer from the amateurs/posers. Great quotes, such as: “Hobby photographers worry about equipment; Professional photographers worry about money; Master photographers worry about light” are already out there. In this blog entry, I propose to add one more to the list.

    18

  • Stock photography is dead, long live stock photography (Act 3 of 3)

    This is the last of three posts exploring my perspective on the business of stock photography. Like so many blog posts, this started as a simple question from a friend, which I answered in part one. It morphed into something bigger because of what was happening in the larger world of stock photography. As I alluded to in the second in this series, the news is not good. In this entry, I explore how that same bad news is hurting me personally and harming our larger cultural collectively.

    14

  • Stock photography is dead, long live stock photography (Act 2 of 3)

    This is the second of three posts explaining on my perspective on the business of stock photography. By way of background, I should say there is a reason I based the title of these entries on that famous quote about transitions within a monarchy when I wrote; “Stock photography is dead, long live stock photography.” The quote alludes to the idea that within a kingdom (and now within stock photography,) the old leadership and structure have ended but at the exact same moment, a new leadership and structure is already in place.

    11

  • Stock photography is dead, long live stock photography (Act 1 of 3)

    Since the majority of my income is derived from stock photography, I pay a lot of attention to what is going on in the stock photography business. Three recent events got me thinking about the state of stock photography, prompting me to write three different blog entries. This is the first of three.

    07

  • An end of summer grab bag

    With the Labor Day holiday here and cool Autumn weather in the air, I am enjoying one last summer weekend before the working year (and the school year) begins. I have recently been gathering bits and pieces to share and so that is what this blog entry will be doing.

    04

  • August 2009

  • Working outside of the Photo-shop centered mainstream

    On my ride home from the Maine Media workshops, where I was teaching a class in street photography, I reflected on everything that happened during the workshop. It was a great group of photographers, who grew as individuals AND supported each other as they went through the sometimes-difficult process of growing and changing. Many things that were said and/or done are potential seeds of blog entries. One difficult question that I heard from two different photographers is what I am writing about this week.

    31

  • An update after a week at the Maine Media Workshops

    I am finishing up a great week at the Maine Media Workshops in Rockport, Maine. There were a whole bunch of small highlights during the class that I think are worth sharing.

    28

  • A big, what is the meaning of life, kind of a question

    A former student/intern wrote me with a big, “what is the meaning of life” kind of a question. The process of answering her ended up becoming something of a dialogue within myself about photography and “meaning” for me. After I sorted things out in my own thinking, I wrote her an answer I could also use as a blog posting.

    24

  • How photojournalists frame issues, for better or worse

    I recently read an article by Steve Raymer, a former National Geographic photographer who now teaches at Indiana University. He was discussing how photojournalists “frame” issues. He was not talking about the literal framing of images or the composition, but rather how concepts and ideas are organized and presented by photojournalists. That got me thinking about my own work and how I had “framed” different issues that I had explored over the years. I also started to wonder if the way I framed things had helped or hurt my career.

    21

  • Was I really seeing five brides trashing dresses in one place?

    During a motorcycle ride over the past weekend, I went to Oakland beach in Warwick, Rhode Island. I was enjoying the view and watching one wedding photographer at work with a bride as she rolled around in the ocean water as she “trashed the dress.” When I looked farther down the same beach I saw four other brides and photographers doing much the same thing. It is true, it was a particularly nice Saturday in August and a good day for a wedding. Still was I really seeing five brides trashing dresses in one place?

    17

  • Free, useful photography tutorials

    Last Monday night I spent an hour watching an on-line photography tutorial, in this case a lesson in Photoshop. This coming Monday I plan to do the same. In fact, for as long as the “Monday Night Light” program is continuing, I hope to be enjoying free photography tutorials.

    14

  • The keys to good street photography

    I will soon be heading north to teach a class in “Street Photography” at the Maine Media Workshops. I was organizing my lessons, assignments and the images I will show the class, when a photographer who wanted to attend but could not, wrote me with some questions. I realized that answering his questions would help him grow AND help me improve the class I am about to teach.

    10

  • Summer freedom

    Summer time is supposed to be about relaxing and freedom from school/work. With that in mind, this post is going to be a bit more relaxed than some recent entries. I will mostly talk about the free things I have been taking advantage of recently.

    07

  • A poignant reminder of the brevity of our lives

    In my last blog post, I was responding to an aspiring photographer’s query on how to advance his career. That got me to thinking about the career paths of photographers, including, but not limited to my own. I went on to update my knowledge of the career path of another photographer that I started out working along side of a couple decades ago. Reading about him, I was poignantly reminded of life’s brevity….

    03

  • July 2009

  • An aspiring photographer wrote me…

    An aspiring photographer wrote me: “What advice might you give me on how to find opportunities (no matter how small), where I might find some interest in my work, or how to best focus my efforts.” Such a question leaves me wary because answering it takes away from what little time I have left between earning a living as a photographer and nurturing this site. As I pondered how to answer him, I realized the answer was really another blog post in the making.

    31

  • When Jeff Sedlik talks, people (better) listen

    I am a dedicated daily reader of the online forums, APAnet and APAdigital. I was following a discussion thread in one of them when it came to an abrupt and final end. That was because, after all the talking around the subject, one person made a few succinct points that got to the heart of the topic and then, everyone finally “got it.” The writer was Jeff Sedlik and when he talks, people (better) listen.

    27

  • Teaching mastery, ethics and excellence, in business and/or photography.

    I was discussing ethics and publication photography with a friend. We were e-mailing back and forth in the wake of the recent news of how the New York Times Magazine photos that were not supposed to be “photoshop-ped” actually were. He was joking that the only thing left was to ban digital cameras and force publication photographers back to using film. After laughing at the thought, we agreed that even that drastic a step would not make a difference. The history of photography is full of folks who exploited film’s perceived documentary nature to their own advantage.

    24

  • An almost foolproof on-line submission system for competitions

    I was recently preparing my submission for the Aperture Portfolio Prize competition. I had a bit of a pleasant surprise when I submitted work from my project: Foreclosed Dreams. Though I have mixed feelings about competitions that require you to buy something, in this case, the subscription to Aperture that I had to buy in order to enter seemed to be a good investment. I entered because I am at the point in the project where I have done some work, but before I decide to invest lots of time (and money,) I want some outside feedback on that work.

    20

  • So you want to teach photography workshops?

    A peer asked me how she could make money “teaching photography workshops as a business.” After picking myself up off the floor from laughing so hard, I gathered my thoughts and reflected on how I started teaching photography. Tracing the path I took from to aspiring instructor to veteran workshop teacher resulted in this blog entry.

    17

  • The New York Times Magazine drives a nail into its own coffin

    I am not normally one to commend another photographer’s downfall, but this week, an unusual situation occurred. Doubly so, because I have, as politicians say, “a dog in this fight.” So, I am in fact going to pile on with all the others condemning the deception by Portuguese photographer Edgar Martins.

    13

  • Pricing images for publications: Part Two

    In the last blog entry, I explored a scenario where you (or me) would need to calculate the use fee for an image to be used in a publication. I directed readers to a few useful resources for calculating that proposed licensee fee. Now, I want to offer a few thinking points that should be part of your process when pricing images for publication.

    10

  • Bits and pieces of photo news on a lazy holiday weekend

    Okay, I admit it. I took the weekend off in terms of writing something “deep and meaningful” for the blog. It has been raining almost every day through June, so the recent perfect weather was too much. Thus, I am only posting a brief (but still useful) list of new resources for photographers to check out.

    06

  • Pricing images for publications: Part One

    A friend/former student wrote me with a great question. He wrote: “I have an opportunity to license some images to a travel company for their brochures. I’ve never done this before and therefore I’d love to get your quick opinion of what the right price range should be. The email below is from the director of communications from the travel company.”

    03

  • June 2009

  • Kodachrome is dead, long live Kodachrome

    With the announcement that Kodak is discontinuing its legendary color slide film, Kodachrome, I find myself frequently humming Paul Simon’s song about that film.  Then I got to thinking about the film, which I once used in VERY large quantities. Finally, I came to consider the film’s successor(s.)  Just like when the ruler of a country dies, he (or she) might be gone but the next leader is soon in place and most importantly, the institution lives on. That is how I see Kodachrome’s and photography’ continuing forward.

    29

  • Outsourcing and Cost-Benefit Analysis

    Before you skip this entry or fall asleep trying to read it because those two economics terms, please read on. Both of these are things all of us do every day in our ordinary routines. When it comes to their businesses, serious photographers, whether established or aspiring professionals, definitely need to think clearly about outsourcing and cost-benefit analysis.

    26

  • What’s new: A few new resources….

    What’s new? Actually, lots of stuff! This blog entry is a series of blurbs about new things I came across that I think would be of interest to most photographers. Every time I see something new and interesting I cut and paste the URL into an ever-growing list. When that list gets too big I gather the best stuff and share it.

    22

  • Frequent Flyer (Part Two:) Commuting for personal and creative purposes

    I fly a lot for work, like most photographers.  I initially commuted for personal reasons like most people do. I wanted to be with my family as much as possible, while I was working on projects that seemed to always be “somewhere else.”  Eventually commuting became an integral part of my creative process as a photographer. This blog post is an argument for the idea that most photographers who work on long-term projects should consider building commuting into their creative processes.

    19

  • Frequent Flyer (Part One:) Before and After Digital

    Like most photojournalists, I fly a lot for work. My experiences flying (both good and bad) can be divided into two periods, pre-digital and post digital. “Going digital” has had obvious benefits technologically, but also unanticipated benefits socially, especially when I am traveling.

    15

  • The most important piece of free imaging software that exists

    I helped a friend out recently with an imaging software issue she was having. At the end of our phone call I noted that I had introduced her to THE most important piece of free imaging software that exists. I ended our chat by saying “I think every photographer working digitally should have this software on his or her computer’s desktop.” This blog entry is a small step towards making that happen.

    12

  • Photographer’s Daily To Do List

    I wish I could say I wrote the following photographer’s daily to do list, but I did NOT. The Ohio photographer, George Remington, wrote it. You can see his work at: http://www.georgeremington.com Read the list carefully, to begin to get a better sense of all the things involved in being a professional photographer.

    08

  • Unraveling the “mystical and unapproachable” in photography

    One of my more regular correspondents, Michael Colby, wrote me with a two-pronged query: “I’d be interested in reading a blog entry about what set you on the path of being a photographer?” He also asked “I still remember, when I was in high school trying to get into serious photography, visiting a camera store. It was almost a mystical and unapproachable place. I take it that serious camera stores were not “consumer friendly’ in the way that any retailer has to be today.” The answers to both his points are intertwined within my own experiences as a young photographer.

    05

  • Resource pages updated on The Wells Point

    I just spent a good deal of time updating the resources pages on The Wells Point. I also added a couple new categories.  The whole point of the resource pages is to introduce photographers to the world of opportunities and resources available to them. Some enable photographers to show or sell imagery while others suggest ways to fund the production of such work.  Some of the resources recently changed their URLs, while others have gone out of business. Those can be found starting at http://thewellspoint.com/about/

    01

  • May 2009

  • On the question of creativity

    I had an e-mail exchange recently with student on the question of creativity. He was not asking about software or lens choices, though those are perfectly valid questions at different points. He was asking the biggest, toughest question of all. I was impressed that he was able to articulate the question. He seemed impressed with my answer. That was when I realized that our exchange was worthy of a blog piece.

    29

  • Gobsmacked by a new piece of technology

    Gobsmacked is a British colloquial expression meaning flabbergasted, astounded or shocked. It is one of my favorite words, partly because it is a great example of onomatopoeia, where the sound of the word suggests what it describes. I was recently gobsmacked, when my daughter showed me a blurb in a magazine showing a great new idea for a simple technology. I cannot remember if the smacking sound was the result of me slapping the side of my own head or my chin flapping in amazement, but gobsmacked I was.

    25

  • China vs India: Politically, photographically and especially briefly

    A week in China is hardly enough time to see much of anything, let alone make any kind of serious analysis.  So what I am writing is not remotely all-encompassing.  Still, I have been to India enough times and traveled enough in the developing world to be able to make a few reasonably well-informed comparisons.

    22

  • Expanding thoughts on the question is photography art?

    While en route to Guangzhou, China, we spent a few fascinating days in Hong Kong. A series of events got me thinking about the old “is photography art?” question. I am not sure that such a question is ever really likely to be fully “settled.” Based on what I saw and did while in Hong Kong, I added a couple of new perspectives to my own thinking about that question. Proof again that one benefit of going half way around the world is that you see things differently after such a trip.

    18

  • China, India and a bit on how I see them both

    I am on my way to China.  I am not going on any work assignment. I am going to accompany my wife, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, (http://annumatthew.com/) who has work in the Guangzhou Photo Biennial.  The hosts at the museum (and the University of Rhode Island) have been especially generous in making her trip possible.  Our abundance of frequent flier miles has made it possible for me to go also. I am going to see China, obviously, but I am also going to see if I can get any perspective on what has changed in China since I went there back in 1986.

    15

  • The importance of portfolio review events (part two)

    In the first part of this two-part posting, I explained the basics of organized portfolio review events. Today, I am writing to share some of the things I learned having been on both sides of the portfolio-reviewing table, as a reviewer and a review-ee. Many (but not all) of the errors I allude to are mistakes I actually made at one point or another.

    11

  • The importance of portfolio review events (part one)

    A portfolio review is when you show your work to another person (duh).  A portfolio review event is a more formalized event where reviewers (editors, curators, image buyers, agents, etc.) gather in one place with explicit plans to look at the work of the review-ees (in our case, photographers.) Portfolio review events have a long and important history in the world of photography. They have also recently turned into something of a big business.  Having been both a reviewer and a review-ee, I can offer perspectives from both sides of the portfolio-reviewing table.

    08

  • Top ten keys to be a successful photojournalist (Part two)

    I just wound up an interesting assignment in California.  I wrote the first half of this two-part blog entry right after the first day of the project.  Now that I have finished and I am writing the second half of the entry, certain points I wanted to share are even clearer to me than when I started.

    04

  • Top ten keys to be a successful photojournalist (Part one)

    I am starting an interesting assignment in California.  So far, it has been a lot of fun, but it has also been a great deal of hard work. To be honest, because I do not work on as many assignments as I once did, I was worried I would be rusty.  In fact it has been quite the opposite. All the skills I developed over the decades that I was doing assignment work came back to me easily, a bit like riding a bicycle (or motorcycle.) Thinking about them led me to writing them down as a blog post.

    01

  • April 2009

  • The art of editing – The editing of art

    In the last week, I have been editing lots of images, looking at thousands and cutting those down to hundreds (or less.) Over the years, I have become a pretty fast editor who can easily articulate why an image does (or does not) work. When a good friend told me she was having trouble editing down her own work, I walked her through some strategies to help her improve her editing skills. By the time we were finished, I realized our conversation was “made” to be a blog entry.

    27

  • Shameless self-promotion

    I am writing today about a variety of resources for photographers.  Of course, the major one that I am thinking about is The Wells Point web site. Yes, this could easily be interpreted as a shameless self-promotion. I prefer to think of it as an information-advisory about all the valuable things on the site. Read the whole post and then you decide.

    24

  • Spring means motor drives and motorcycles

    When mid April rolls around, many things seem to happen all at once. Tax day is the most obvious one. For many photographers in the chilly North East, April is the time to start venturing outside again to photograph regularly. For me, mid-April also means I can start riding my motorcycle after the long winter hiatus. I was out riding recently and I ended up thinking about the similarities (and differences) between the folks outside enjoying their cameras and enjoying their motorcycles.

    20

  • Some thoughts on photo-contests

    If you are a photographer of any kind, you are probably inundated with information on photo contests. I am often overwhelmed by all the entry information that comes via snail mail and e-mail. I personally enter very few contests. I was thinking an explanation of my reasoning might help others as they consider entering contests.

    17

  • The important process of naming a project

    The members of a critique group that I head recently had an email dialogue about what to call one of the member’s ongoing projects.  As the process unfolded, I thought about my own struggles naming my projects and how the naming of a photographic project is arguably the most important step in the process of defining and shaping such a project.

    13

  • What is new on The Wells Point?

    The big news on The Wells Point site is the completion of the photographer’s resource pages. You can start to explore those at: http://www.thewellspoint.com/about/ I have information there (with extensive links,) on artist’s residencies, copyright, fine-art promotional venues, grants, software and stock photography, as well as another twenty-something different categories of information.

    10

  • What kind of tools do I use and why? (Part two)

    I am now heading home after a productive workshop in Guatemala, where the mix of cameras the students had in the class struck me as interesting. The discussion we had around camera choices is something that I thought would interest other photographers. (This is the second of two entries on the topic of what kind of tools I use.)

    06

  • What kind of tools do I use and why? (Part one)

    I am finishing up a great workshop in Guatemala, which has been both fun and also challenging.  As photographers, we had some in depth discussions about problems that we had to resolve so we could make our photographs, discussions which I thought would interest other photographers. (This is the first of two entries on what kind of tools I use.)

    03

  • March 2009

  • Thoughts on web sites for photographers

    A friend asked me about web sites and I got to thinking about my own web site.  I considered how it evolved from a coding disaster, to a nice try, and finally to the real thing.  My path, with all its ups and downs, may be instructive for other photographers thinking about their existing (or) future web sites.

    30

  • Cross-cultural understanding and photography

    I write this at the start of my trip to Guatemala. This is the seventh or eighth time I have been here. When I can, I prefer to visit a place more than once so I can better understand the local culture, see how that changes over time, and of course photograph. Waking up in another country prompted me to think about what I have learned about working in different cultures, which might help other photographers who are planning to do the same.

    27

  • Workshops, teaching and the transformative power of photography.

    I am heading off to Guatemala later this week. Besides getting away from the lingering winter cold in Rhode Island, I am going there to teach. That got me to thinking about workshops and teaching as well as why I do it and the transformative power of photography.

    23

  • From “mad cropper” to full-frame perfectionist

    I almost never crop the photographs that I make. For me, the best images are captured by careful composition in the camera, and not ‘saved” by cropping after the fact. I will be the first to admit that I was not always so disciplined. In tracing my evolution from mad cropper to full frame perfectionist, I realized the idea of not cropping went from technical objective to moral imperative to aesthetic goal and now is a philosophical mission.

    20

  • The symbiosis between personal and commercial work

    Who are you taking pictures for? That’s a question that photojournalists hear a lot. But, I think ALL photographers should be asking themselves that question. In the process of sorting that question out, most photographers divide their efforts into “personal work,” and “commercial work.” I am not so sure about the wisdom of such clear demarcations.

    16

  • Adapting to new technology verses adopting a new philosophy

    As commercial photographers, we are continually adapting to new technologies, moving from black and white, to color (then to slides) and now to digital. Similarly we are often expected to adopt new strategies and philosophies as the market we work within changes.  More and more folks I hear from are finding that second process of adopting harder to take, and I am not sure it is just a function of our advancing ages.

    13

  • The Wells Point after six months

    The Wells Point site is now over six months old. I am still going strong, having written 65 blog entries and posted 13 pod casts. I have learned much along the way, about myself, the folks who visit The Wells Point and a bit about where this enterprise will be going in the future.

    09

  • Does National Public Radio hate photography?

    One of the many great things about listening regularly to National Public Radio (NPR) is their extensive coverage of the arts and culture. They carry numerous freestanding shows (and have numerous reporters/hosts) exploring different aspects of culture and the arts. They usually end each hour of their major daily broadcasts with a report on some aspect of arts and culture.  So why is their a yawning gap in their coverage when it comes to photography?

    06

  • The future of commercial photography and percieved value

    A friend wrote to suggest I “talk about photography as a business and how it relates to our economic times.” I was hesitant at first, unsure what I could add to the discussion since my expertise is minimal when it comes to economics, business or marketing. I thought about it for a while and realized I did have something I could add to the discussion.

    02

  • February 2009

  • Learning how to learn, photographically

    When I went to college, in pursuit of a Bachelor of Liberal Arts, my mother encouraged me to put my energy into what she called “learning how to learn.” I just finished a workshop where a student told me the best part of the class was that he had “learned how to learn the way to make the best photograph possible of a given situation.”

    27

  • Photo-essays, past, present and future

    I have been producing photo-essays in one form or another for a couple decades. In that time, my approach to them has changed, as have the various ways that photo-essays are seen. After a long, slow decline in outlets, a new and exciting one has appeared.

    23

  • The importance of original source material

    My daughter was recently talking to me about her growing passion for studying history, primarily through what she said were the best part, original source material. That reminded me of two points in my early life as a photographer, when what is now known as original source material changed my perspective on photography.

    20

  • The latest in electronic flash in my camera bag

    As promised, this blog entry will not include any writing about my “philosophy.” For the moment, I have happily returned to talking about cameras and photographing. In this post I am going to highlight the other new and important piece of gear in my camera bag.

    16

  • The best flash card wallet I have ever used

    Regular readers of this blog may be wondering when I am going to stop writing about my “philosophy” and return to talking about cameras and photographing. I will right now. In this post, I am going to highlight one of the most important pieces of gear in my camera bag.

    13

  • The transformative power of my first grant

    One of the first grants that I ever received was not a particularly big one, but it was an important one.  It taught me many lessons that I still follow to this day. It changed my life as a photographer.  That grant still exists today and I was surprised/pleased to get a recent update about it.

    09

  • The workshop I always wanted to attend

    As an aspiring documentary photographer/photo-essayist there was always one workshop I always wanted to attend, but I never could. Now that I am in fact “established,” there is one workshop I really want to teach, but I wonder if other students would want to attend such a workshop.

    06

  • My “brief stint” as a fashion photographer

    I was reading an interesting article in The New York Times about the Presidential dress code.  Barack Obama’s recent choice to be photographed without his suit jacket in the Oval Office was front-page news. It rang a bell and then I remembered how another President’s fashion choices changed my life as a photographer.

    02

  • January 2009

  • Long time coming

    I am often asked, what am I working on now? Like many people, I have lots of things in the works. I am pleased that some of these efforts have recently come to fruition, after the typically long time cycle that is common to this business and sometimes frustrating to me.

    30

  • Photographs as mirrors and windows

    I often tell my students that their best photographs are the ones that reflect their personalities, life experiences and outlooks.  I was recently giving a presentation, when an audience member’s question stopped me cold and forced me to articulate how that same idea has played out in my own work.

    26

  • The life and death and life of Polaroid pictures

    Polaroids, those instant-developing images that we all came to love, seem like they would have become quaint in the digital age. Still the saga of Polaroid’s “images in an instant,” having gone through many incarnations over the years, continues. In fact, I just started using the first Polaroid product I have owned in a long time.

    23

  • How I learned to critique photographs

    I was reviewing another photographer’s work recently. Left and right, I was tossing off suggestions for improving the images. Though I was thinking intensely about the work, I was largely unaware of my own process, as I critiqued the work. When she asked me how I had learned to critique images so fluidly, I was stopped in my tracks.

    19

  • Where I learned the most about photographing

    I recently realized that if I carefully look at my career as a photographer, I can pinpoint where I learned the most about the act of photographing.  It was not in high school, where I learned the craft of photography.  Nor was it in college, where my study of the history of photography taught me about the art of photography.  It was in a different place, one that I fear is fast disappearing from the photographic landscape.

    16

  • “Hitting the wall” when it comes to learning new technologies

    I was having a conversation (via e-mail) with a friend/photographer in California, named Michael. It quickly grew from a personal discussion to something much more philosophical. It started on photography but ended up being about much larger issues.

    12

  • Blurring the lines between art and commerce

    You hear and read a lot about how the lines between the worlds of art photography and commercial photography are continually being blurred. In most ways that is good.  I recently lived through a particularly interesting experience that shows just how much these once distinctive realms are blurring.

    09

  • The questions I would ask any accomplished photographer.

    If I could corner an accomplished photographer in a bar and ask them anything, the questions I would ask are not the ones you might expect. They have little to do with the camera brand they use, the paper they print on or the bag they carry.

    05

  • What makes a great photography workshop?

    I have posed this question to thousands of photography students. Some were in my workshops, others had worked with other teachers and many had done both. Base on what they told me, I think I have a good idea what makes a great photography workshop.  I am happy to share that, (in what I hope is only a mildly self-promoting blog entry.)

    02

  • December 2008

  • Important things to know about the business of photography

    If it seems like I am obsessed with the business of photography, I am.  That is mostly because I make my living as a photographer so the general state of the photography market interests (and impacts) me directly.  However, I am also interested on a more philosophical level.

    29

  • Cameras do not make pictures, people do!

    As I was flying cross-country recently to the warmth of sunny California, I was catching up on all the newspapers that had accumulated on my kitchen table. As a photographer, one item really caught my attention.

    26

  • The Internet is grand, isn’t it?

    I was struggling as I tried not to write one more blathering post along the lines of “Ain’t the internet grand?” After pummeling myself about that for a while, I gave up, so here goes.

    22

  • “Do It Yourself” Flash Gel Kit

    Periodically, I see things on the web that leave me stunned. Many involve other people’s stupidity. Some involve equally striking acts of creativity. Some of the best, to me, are those showing simple and elegant ways to modernize small but important photographic tools.

    19

  • Photography, poetry and crossing disciplines

    I stumbled across a great quote recently. It is about poets, but I immediately thought how it applies to photographers. Following on my last entry, about the importance of practice, I got to thinking about how a lot of things cross the lines that appear to divide different mediums, but really are common to most all of them.

    15

  • The role that practice plays in photography

    I just finished teaching a class on the basics of multimedia, at Calumet photo http://www.calumetphoto.com in NYC. I was teaching members of Professional Women Photographers http://www.pwponline and staying with friends who live in NYC. The class, and the time with my friends, who are also photographers, reminded me of the very important (but usually under appreciated) role that practice plays in good photography.

    12

  • Which is the best tripod

    I just finished teaching a great class at the Lepp Institute called exploring “Light, Shadow, Twilight and Night: Using Available Light.” Obviously, we worked a lot at twilight and into the night and I was repeatedly asked, which is the best tripod?

    08

  • What every photographer should know about model releases

    Model releases seem to be the source of more confusion than almost any other aspect of photography for aspiring (and established) professionals. I am asked about them during every class or presentation that I give. The irony is that model releases are remarkably simple.

    05

  • The history of photography of California farmworkers

    In politics there is the so-called “Washington read” which, according to Word Spy is: “The perusal of a book in a bookstore that consists of checking the index for references to oneself and reading only those parts of the book.” I never thought I would live to see the day when I did my own version of the “Washington read” of a book, but that happened recently.

    01

  • November 2008

  • Taking photo contests seriously

    A friend asked me if I could help her set up a photo-contest for her non-profit educational institution. I told her I do enter some photo contests, but I am quite leery of many, because they are often little more than easy ways for groups to gather imagery for their own use at little or no cost to them. I think I know a bad photo contest when I read the rules but what I really wanted to send her was resources for knowing what a “good” photo contest is, in terms of being fair to the photographers.

    28

  • Exactly what is “stock photography?”

    I make most of my income from what is called “stock photography.” It is, according to http://www.stockphoto.net, “existing photography that is available for commercial use — as opposed to assignment photography, which is custom made to someone’s specifications.” Getting paid for existing images sounds like easy money, but it is anything but easy.

    24

  • Marketing is the key to being a professional photographer

    The longer I work as a professional photographer, the more I am reminded that taking pictures is the easiest part of this job. The hardest part is marketing your work and yourself. I have tried various marketing strategies over the years, some more successful than others. All of them are built on the idea of regularly getting your work in front of the folks who will pay to use your images. So how do you find those folks?

    21

  • Making inexpensive, high quality, archival photographic prints

    An exhibition of what I call my “light study” work just closed in Providence. One of the many fun things about this show was that it featured my newest color “light study” work. In the past, this work was only in black and white, so this is a new and exciting direction for me. You can read more about the new work here: http://meredithcutler.com/image/david-h-wells-light-studies-for-artscope-magazine-septoct-2008.

    17

  • Finding photographers, image piracy and what really matters

    It is not news that the world is awash with images (and photographers). Digital photography having made this problem grow by a factor of ten (or more) is also not a revelation. I was reminded of these points as I was nurturing another set of image-makers who aspire to go out into the world of commercial photography.

    14

  • A cross-cultural photography workshop experience

    I just finished teaching a particularly fascinating workshop in Singapore through an organization called Objectifs. In my best workshops, and this was one, I learned as much as I taught.

    10

  • Color calibration made easy and accurate

    One other piece of technology I discovered at the recent Photo Expo in NYC that really struck a chord with me was the Color Munki. It enables you to calibrate your entire color printing system, both printer AND your monitor screen, so they are all speaking the same language when it comes to color.

    07

  • Zen and the Art of Motordrive (thoughts on teaching/part 2)

    Continued from previous post: In those workshops, I work to get the students to do many things such as assemble a set of images with a point of view or to use light and shadow to improve their images. First, they must master the machine in their hands, the camera. Much of the time is spent on buttons and settings. F-stops and shutter speeds dominate the conversations.

    03

  • October 2008

  • Zen and the Art of Motordrive (thoughts on teaching/part 1)

    I come from a family of teachers. My mother was a teacher and later a principal. “First female principal in her district” she would proudly tell anyone who would listen. She briefly tried to get me hooked on teaching right after college, as a substitute teacher in the district where she worked.

    31

  • Highlights from the PhotoPlus expo in NYC

    There were hundreds of new and interesting things to see at the PhotoPlus expo in NYC. A couple jumped out at me as interesting and important to the aspiring and accomplished photographers who visit this site.

    27

  • The Wells point goes live

    I am excited to announce that The Wells Point website, in development for months, went live on Wednesday, October 22nd. This was just as I was preparing to attend (and present a seminar) at the huge Photo Plus trade show in New York City.

    24

  • B + W fiber prints from digital files

    Though I work primarily in color, I have a long time love of black and white photography. For me the Holy Grail of black and white would be to merge digital capture with conventional, fiber-based output.

    20

  • Interesting and important color test

    I was introduced to an interesting and important color test that any photographer working with color imagery should take.

    17

  • Doing it for money

    Here are a few more great resources on the business of photography for those interested in “doing it for money.”

    13

  • Portugese photography festival

    I was connected to information on an interesting photography festival in Chaves, Portugal.

    10

  • Keeping up on the stock photography business

    If you are interested as I am in keeping up with developments in the rapidly changing world of stock photography, you should be reading a new blog called “about the image.”

    06

  • Visual search engine

    Right now, if you want to search for an image, you are limited to searching using keywords. TinEye is a new and possibly revolutionary visual search engine currently in beta testing.

    03

  • September 2008

  • My favorite photography book

    One of my favorite photography books of all time is a remarkably simple book called On Being A Photographer.

    29

  • Model Release issues

    I am regularly asked when a Model Release is needed.

    26

  • Lists of awards, prizes or grants

    There is a new blog attempting to “bring together a listing of all the awards, prizes or grants which are given in the various fields of arts.”

    22

  • Photography driven Marketing campaign

    My agency, Aurora photos, is running an interesting marketing campaign that explores both the artistic and commercial aspects of photography.

    19

  • Orphan Works

    “Orphan Works” legislation has been in the news recently. That legislation is still in flux. No matter what happens, making sure that you control the use of your images is more important than ever.

    15

  • Portfolio reviews

    The biennial portfolio reviews in Portland, Oregon scheduled for 2009 are now open for registration.

    12

  • Copyright information

    You may have heard or read about new federal legislation on the subject of what are called “Orphan Works.”

    08

  • David Wells “in the news”

    One place you can see what I have been up to is on a blog posting written about me.

    05

  • Business Resources

    Probably because I make my living as a photographer, I talk a lot about the business side of photography.

    01

  • August 2008

  • A “knock around” camera

    If you are like me, you probably have been looking for a “point-and-shoot” camera to use when you would rather not carry your “work” camera. Some folks call these cameras “knock around” cameras, to be used when you are just “knocking around.”

    29

  • Audio for multimedia

    It has been exciting to start experimenting in multi-media in my own work, mixing sound and images. As my grandfather used to say about so many things, “they tell me it’s the future.”

    25

  • “Opportunities” for photographers

    I read a lot of stuff, every day, offering “opportunities” for photographers. Many of those are suspect, at best. Here are THREE interesting opportunities.

    22

  • Interesting products

    In my own work, I have started working with the lensbabies, which I like a lot. These are a couple examples:

    18

  • Starting the blog;].

    I am new to blogging so I will mostly be writing about things that I encounter in my daily routine as a photographer. Some will be about the business of photography and others about the craft. Still others will focus on the creative side of the medium.

    15

  • The background of the Wells Point – the idea

    The idea for the Wells Point came out of experiences I had teaching photography over the last decade.

    11

  • What is the Wells Point?

    What exactly is the Wells Point?
    The Wells Point is a web site with video podcasts and free information for aspiring and accomplished photographers.

    08

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